Soy intake and breast cancer risk: a prospective study of 300,000 Chinese women and a dose-response meta-analysis

Eur J Epidemiol. 2020 Jun;35(6):567-578. doi: 10.1007/s10654-019-00585-4. Epub 2019 Nov 21.


Epidemiological evidence on the association of soy intake with breast cancer risk is still inconsistent due to different soy intake levels across previous studies and small number of breast cancer cases. We aimed to investigate this issue by analyzing data from the China Kadoorie Biobank (CKB) study and conducting a dose-response meta-analysis to integrate existing evidence. The CKB study included over 300,000 women aged 30-79 from 10 regions across China enrolled between 2004 and 2008, and followed-up for breast cancer events until 31 December 2016. Information on soy intake was collected from baseline, two resurveys and twelve 24-h dietary recalls. We also searched for relevant prospective cohort studies to do a dose-response meta-analysis. The mean (SD) soy intake was 9.4 (5.4) mg/day soy isoflavones among CKB women. During 10 years of follow-up, 2289 women developed breast cancers. The multivariable-adjusted relative risk was 1.00 (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.81-1.22) for the fourth (19.1 mg/day) versus the first (4.5 mg/day) soy isoflavone intake quartile. Meta-analysis of prospective studies found that each 10 mg/day increment in soy isoflavone intake was associated with a 3% (95% CI 1-5%) reduced risk of breast cancer. The CKB study demonstrated that moderate soy intake was not associated with breast cancer risk among Chinese women. Higher amount of soy intake might provide reasonable benefits for the prevention of breast cancer.

Keywords: Breast cancer; Dose–response meta-analysis; Prospective cohort study; Soy intake.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Asian People
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Breast Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • China / epidemiology
  • Diet
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Reduction Behavior
  • Rural Population
  • Soy Foods*
  • Soybean Proteins / administration & dosage*
  • Urban Population


  • Soybean Proteins