An association has been reported between consumption of a high soy diet and a low incidence of breast cancer within populations of Southeast Asia. Phytoestrogens present in soy act as partial estrogen agonists or antagonists and can inhibit breast cancer cell proliferation in vitro. The effect of 14-day dietary soy supplementation with 60 g (45 mg isoflavones) on the normal breast of 84 premenopausal patients was determined. Serum concentrations of the isoflavanoids, genistein, daidzein, and equol, were raised in patients after soy supplementation (P < or = 0.025). Nipple aspirate (NA) levels of genistein and daidzein were higher than paired serum levels, both before (P < 0.001 and P = 0.001, respectively) and after soy supplementation (P < 0.001 and P = 0.049, respectively); however, there was no significant increase in NA isoflavone levels in response to soy. NA levels of apolipoprotein D were significantly lowered and pS2 levels raised in response to soy supplementation (P < or = 0.002), indicative of an estrogenic stimulus. No effect of soy supplementation on breast epithelial cell proliferation, estrogen and progesterone receptor status, apoptosis, mitosis, or Bcl-2 expression was detected. In conclusion, short term dietary soy has a weak estrogenic response on the breast, as measured by nipple aspirate apolipoprotein D and pS2 expression. No antiestrogenic effect of soy on the breast was detected.