Cancer Forum

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Moderator: Gary Ng, RD, Master of Dietetics

How nutrition can help prevent cancer or improve health in cancer patients

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  1. Is it true that soy products are harmful for ER+ breast cancer patients?

    • About 75% of all breast cancers are estrogens receptor positive which grow in response to the hormone estrogen. Soy foods contains phyto-oestrogens (60% of genistein, 30% of daidzein (30%), and 10% of glycitein) that have a similar structure to oestradiol, and are able to bind to oestrogen receptors which have a lower affinity than oestradiol. It is not clear whether it is safe for women with existing breast cancer to consume soy supplements or even large quantities of soy foods. There are no clinical trials available to definitively answer this question. The results in scientific studies are contradictory that phyto-oestrogens (genistein and daidzein) may stimulate existing tumour growth and antagonize the effects of tamoxifen. Women with current or past breast cancer should be aware of the risks of potential tumour growth when taking soy products.

      There is s limited evidence that soy foods may lower the risk of breast cancer as phyto-oestrogens can act as antioxidants to inhibit free radical damage, and have anti-proliferative properties to inhibit tumour growth. However, the World Health Organization concluded in 2003 that there was insufficient evidence that soy foods or
      phyto-oestrogens reduce the risk of breast cancer.

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