Soy intake and breast cancer risk: an evaluation based on a systematic review of epidemiologic evidence among the Japanese population

Jpn J Clin Oncol. 2014 Mar;44(3):282-95. doi: 10.1093/jjco/hyt203. Epub 2014 Jan 22.


Objective: We reviewed epidemiological studies of soy intake and breast cancer among Japanese women. This report is one among a series of articles by our research group, which is evaluating the existing evidence concerning the association between health-related lifestyles and cancer.

Methods: Original data were obtained from MEDLINE searches using PubMed or from searches of the Ichushi database, complemented with manual searches. Evaluation of associations was based on the strength of evidence and the magnitude of association, together with biological plausibility.

Results: Five cohort studies and six case-control studies were identified. Among the cohort studies, two studies observed that total soy intake (in terms of total amounts of soy foods or soy isoflavones) was associated with a moderate (0.5 ≤ relative risk ≤ 0.67 with statistical significance) or strong (relative risk ≤ 0.5 with statistical significance) risk reduction of breast cancer in postmenopausal women. Among the case-control studies, two studies reported a weak (0.67 ≤ odds ratio ≤ 1.5 with statistical significance or 0.5 ≤ odds ratio ≤ 0.67 without statistical significance) inverse association between total soy intake and the risk of breast cancer. In the former, this association was observed in all women combined-premenopausal and postmenopausal women-but in the latter, the association was confined to postmenopausal women. The associations of intakes of individual soy foods with the risk of breast cancer were generally null. There is some evidence that supports the biological plausibility of a protective effect of isoflavones on breast cancer risk.

Conclusions: We conclude that soy intake possibly decreases the risk of breast cancer among Japanese women.

Keywords: Japanese; breast cancer; dietary soy; epidemiology; systematic review.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Asian People / statistics & numerical data*
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cohort Studies
  • Epidemiologic Studies
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Japan / epidemiology
  • Life Style
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • Postmenopause
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Soy Foods*