Because soy contains phytoestrogens, there has been a great deal of misunderstanding about their safety for women with breast cancer. But the science is very clear: soy is not only safe for women with breast cancer, it can save their lives. . . .

In a just published study, 6235 Canadian and American women with breast cancer were followed for 9.4 years. The researchers wanted to see what effect soy would have on survival. They found that the women who ate the most soy had a significant 21% decrease in all-cause mortality compared to the women who ate the least. That means they were 21% less likely to die from any cause over the nearly a decade they were followed.

In this study, the benefit was only seen in women whose breast cancers were hormone receptor-negative and who had not received hormone therapy like tamoxifen for their breast cancer. However, it found no negative effect of soy on women with hormone positive receptors or women who had received hormone treatment.

Though this study found that soy only positively affected women with hormone negative receptors, other similar studies have demonstrated benefit for women with both hormone negative and hormone positive receptors.

A study that followed 5,042 breast cancer survivors for 4 years found that the ones who ate the most soy had 29% reduced risk of death and 32% reduced risk of recurrence. The benefit was present whether their cancer was estrogen receptor-positive or -negative (JAMA 2009;302:2437-43).

A meta-analysis of 5 studies of 11,206 women who started eating soy after being diagnosed with breast cancer found that it was associated with decreased mortality in both estrogen receptor-positive and -negative breast cancer and in both pre-and postmenopausal women. Soy was also associated with reduced recurrence in estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer and in postmenopausal women (Asian Pac J Cancer Prev 2013;14:2407-2412).

Other studies have also found that eating soy reduces the risk of death in women with breast cancer by similar amounts. One study found that women who eat lots of soy have 29% less chance of developing breast cancer (Br J Cancer 2008), and another found that women who already have breast cancer who eat the most soy have a 29% reduced risk of death and a 32% reduced risk of recurrence (NEJM 1997;336:1269).

An analysis of 4 studies of women with invasive breast cancer found that eating soy is associated with a significant 25% reduced risk of recurrence. It also found a nonsignificant 17% reduced risk of breast cancer mortality (Am J Clin Nutr 2012;96:123-132).

And in a review of 127 studies, 32 of 44 case controlled studies found that higher intake of soy or soy isoflavones is associated with a decreased risk of developing or dying from breast cancer. None found a negative effect. Observational studies also found a reduced risk of breast cancer with soy or soy isoflavone intake. They more you ate, the greater the protection. 5 out of 6 studies found that higher intake in childhood lowers the risk of breast cancer in adulthood. The studies also found a reduced risk of recurrence and a reduction in mortality with soy intakes greater than 15.3g a day of soy protein. The researchers concluded that soy protects against breast cancer and reduces the risk or recurrence and mortality (PLoS One 2013;8(11);e81968doi:10.1371/ journal.pone.0081968).

For more on preventing and treating breast cancer naturally and on the role of soy, see Vol. 19. No. 2 of The Natural Path.

Cancer 2017;doi:10.1002/cncr.30615

For the latest research to keep your family healthy, get The Natural Path delivered to your inbox each month: Subscribe!

For more on preventing and treating breast cancer naturally, see our book The Family Naturopathic Encyclopedia.

For more on soy, see Linda's newest book, The All-New Vegetarian Passport: a comprehensive health book and cookbook all in one.

The Natural Path
 is intended for educational purposes only and is in no way intended for self-diagnosis or self-treatment. For health problems, consult a qualified health practitioner for a comprehensive program.

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