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The Link Between Phytoestrogens and Breast Cancer

So you’ve heard about the amazing health benefits of phytoestrogens, especially for menopausal women whose bodies are short on estrogen. Plant-based compounds that act like estrogen in the body, called phytoestrogens, can relieve symptoms of menopause and may even help protect against breast cancer. But there have also been studies indicating that soy, a primary source of phytoestrogens, could possibly promote tumor growth in women at higher risk for breast cancer or with a history of the disease.

What are the breast cancer facts, then, relating to phytoestrogens? Studies performed on American women have shown a breast cancer risk six times that of Asian women who typically consume diets high in soy phytoestrogen. When Asian women migrate to the U.S. their risk increases. Many American women have taken this as a sign that upping their phytoestrogen intake will protect them from breast cancer. New research from the Netherlands indicates that this is not the case, but this research focused on women consuming phytoestrogen from fruits, nuts, grains, and seeds, not the soy and flaxseed that makes up much of an Asian’s diet.

Studies are somewhat contradictory, but it’s important to keep in mind that there are many other differences between the typical American and Asian woman, including exercise, time of menstruation, vegetable intake, overall calorie consumption, and body type. Since the effect of phytoestrogens on female hormones needs more study before a final determination can be made, be sure to discuss the possible pros and cons of increasing your phytoestrogen consumption. And it’s always a good idea to discuss with your doctor when female hormones begin declining at the menopause stage in life.

The information supplied in this article is not to be considered as medical advice and is for educational purposes only.