Impact of Soy Foods on the Development of Breast Cancer and the Prognosis of Breast Cancer Patients

Forsch Komplementmed. 2016;23(2):75-80. doi: 10.1159/000444735. Epub 2016 Apr 12.


The relationship between soy food intake and breast cancer has been rigorously investigated for more than 25 years. The identification of isoflavones as possible chemopreventive agents helped fuel this line of investigation. These diphenolic compounds, which are found in uniquely-rich amounts in soy beans, possess both estrogen-dependent and -independent properties that potentially inhibit the development of breast cancer. Observational studies show that among Asian women higher soy consumption is associated with an approximate 30% reduction in risk of developing breast cancer. However, evidence suggests that for soy to reduce breast cancer risk consumption must occur early in life, that is during childhood and/or adolescence. Despite the interest in the role of soy in reducing breast cancer risk concerns have arisen that soy foods, because they contain isoflavones, may increase the likelihood of high-risk women developing breast cancer and worsen the prognosis of breast cancer patients. However, extensive clinical and epidemiologic data show these concerns to be unfounded. Clinical trials consistently show that isoflavone intake does not adversely affect markers of breast cancer risk, including mammographic density and cell proliferation. Furthermore, prospective epidemiologic studies involving over 11,000 women from the USA and China show that postdiagnosis soy intake statistically significantly reduces recurrence and improves survival.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Breast Neoplasms / diet therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Child
  • Diet, Vegetarian*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Isoflavones / administration & dosage
  • Isoflavones / adverse effects
  • Prognosis
  • Risk
  • Soy Foods
  • United States


  • Isoflavones