The worst thing that can happen to a cancer patient who successfully rids him or herself of a tumor is for that cancer to return. It’s called “recurrence” and it’s a significant issue for all cancer survivors.
A new study has uncovered a type of food that could help keep cancer at bay.
Post-menopausal breast cancer patients (whose tumors are sensitive to hormones) had a lower risk of recurrence if they ate high amounts of soy. This finding was just published in the “Canadian Medical Association Journal.”
Soy contains “isoflavones,” which are similar to estrogen in chemical structure and may stimulate or inhibit estrogen-like action in tissues. Consumption of soy isoflavones, found in soybeans and soy products, has risen this past decade. It has made for some controversy, fuelled by not knowing the effects, as there are concerns about the effect of soy consumption on women with hormone-positive breast cancer. That’s because tumor growth relies on estrogen, in this case.
The new study turns this idea on its head. Researchers looked at 524 women who had surgery for breast cancer and were followed afterward for between five to six years. Since little is known about the effects of soy isoflavones on breast cancer patients receiving “adjuvant endocrine therapy,” the researchers sought to understand its impact on these patients.
Compared with postmenopausal patients who consumed the least amount of soy isoflavones (under 15.2 mg/day), those who ate the most (over 42.3 mg/day) had a significantly lower risk of breast cancer recurrence.
The recurrence rate of hormone-positive breast cancer was 13% lower among patients who ate the most soy than in those who ate the least amount. That said, there was no visible effect on overall survival in postmenopausal women. And there was no association between soy intake and survival in premenopausal women.
The authors conclude that, while this finding is potentially important regarding soy intake, large multicenter clinical trials are needed to help clarify the situation.
In the meantime, breast cancer patients should speak to their doctors about what effect soy isoflavones could have. If your doctor isn’t up-to-speed with the latest research, consult a nutritionist as well, as they will likely be on top of the latest findings.