The influence of a diet containing soy protein on the hormonal status and regulation of the menstrual cycle was examined in six premenopausal women with regular ovulatory cycles. Soy protein (60 g containing 45 mg isoflavones) given daily for 1 mo significantly (P < 0.01) increased follicular phase length and/or delayed menstruation. Midcycle surges of luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone were significantly suppressed during dietary intervention with soy protein. Plasma estradiol concentrations increased in the follicular phase and cholesterol concentrations decreased 9.6%. Similar responses occur with tamoxifen, an antiestrogen undergoing clinical trial as a prophylactic agent in women at high risk for breast cancer. These effects are presumed to be due to nonsteroidal estrogens of the isoflavone class, which behave as partial estrogen agonists/antagonists. The responses to soy protein are potentially beneficial with respect to risk factors for breast cancer and may in part explain the low incidence of breast cancer and its correlation with a high soy intake in Japanese and Chinese women.