Factors to consider in the association between soy isoflavone intake and breast cancer risk

J Epidemiol. 2010;20(2):83-9. doi: 10.2188/jea.je20090181. Epub 2010 Feb 20.


It has been suggested that soy isoflavones have protective effects against breast cancer. However, data from epidemiological studies are not conclusive. A recent meta-analysis showed that soy intake was inversely associated with breast cancer risk in Asian but not Western populations, which indicates that protection against breast cancer may require that women consume levels of soy typical in Asian diets. In addition to the amount of soy isoflavones consumed, the form and food source of isoflavones, timing of isoflavone exposure, estrogen receptor status of tumors, and equol-producer status and hormonal profile of individuals may modify the association between soy isoflavone intake and the risk of breast cancer. These factors might explain the heterogeneity of results from studies. This present report contrasts background data from Japanese and Western women to identify the potential modifying of these factors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Diet Surveys
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Isoflavones*
  • Japan / epidemiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Soy Foods*


  • Isoflavones