Effect of soy phytoestrogens on hot flashes in postmenopausal women with breast cancer: a randomized, controlled clinical trial

J Clin Oncol. 2002 Mar 15;20(6):1449-55. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2002.20.6.1449.


Purpose: Vasomotor symptoms, such as hot flashes and night sweats, in breast cancer survivors are often worsened by chemotherapy and tamoxifen, and/or the discontinuation of hormone replacement therapy at diagnosis. This study evaluated the acceptability and effectiveness of a soy beverage containing phytoestrogens as a treatment for hot flashes in postmenopausal women with breast cancer.

Methods: A randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trial was conducted in postmenopausal women with moderate hot flashes who were previously treated for early-stage breast cancer. Women were stratified for tamoxifen use and randomized to a soy beverage (n = 59) containing 90 mg of isoflavones or to a placebo rice beverage (n = 64). Women recorded the number and severity of hot flashes daily with a daily menopause diary for 4 weeks at baseline and for 12 weeks while consuming 500 mL of a soy or placebo beverage.

Results: There were no significant differences between the soy and placebo groups in the number of hot flashes or hot flash scores. However, presumably because of a strong placebo effect, both groups had significant reductions in hot flashes. Mild gastrointestinal side effects were experienced by both groups but occurred with greater frequency and severity with soy. The mean serum genistein concentration at 6 weeks was significantly higher in women who consumed soy (0.61 +/- 0.43 micromol/L) compared with placebo (0.43 +/- 0.37 micromol/L) (P =.02). Overall acceptability and compliance were high and similar in both groups.

Conclusion: The soy beverage did not alleviate hot flashes in women with breast cancer any more than did a placebo. Future research into other compounds is recommended to identify safe and effective therapies for hot flashes in breast cancer survivors.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / complications*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Estrogens, Non-Steroidal / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Glycine max / chemistry
  • Hot Flashes / drug therapy*
  • Hot Flashes / etiology
  • Humans
  • Isoflavones*
  • Middle Aged
  • Phytoestrogens
  • Plant Preparations
  • Postmenopause
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Estrogens, Non-Steroidal
  • Isoflavones
  • Phytoestrogens
  • Plant Preparations