Monday, April 16, 2012


I can't take any credit for the content in today's blog.  What follows is information directly from the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation.  It seems we are in a never ending maze of What's Great Today.....Not So Much Tomorrow.

Soy is a Hot Topic in the breast cancer arena.  I know I was told to limit my soy intake and that my "high risk" daughter (who has a bag of soy crisps in her hand every time I turn around) was given the same advice.  We need someone to decipher the headlines and the sound bites.  Thankfully, I can always count on Dr. Love to sort through the information and explain it in ways that are easily understood.

Take it away, Dr. Love........ 

The story of soy and breast cancer is an excellent example of the research process. Pieces of information come in slowly, some studies contradict others, and then, overtime, as we learn more, we gain a clearer picture of the answer. But until that occurs, confusion and worry are common, as the subject in question—in this case soy—pops back and forth between the "good" category and the "bad."

Initially, soy was thought of as a wonder food. This happened because researchers looking for an explanation as to why women living in Asia had lower breast cancer rates than women living in the U.S. found that 
Asian women ate more soy products. Virtually overnight, soy became the best thing in breast cancer prevention. Tofu and soy milk were all the rage. All kinds of processed foods began to contain soy, and soy powders and supplements could be found everywhere. There was no question: Soy was GOOD!

But as scientists began to conduct laboratory studies to look for reasons why soy might decrease breast cancer risk, they found that when genistein, which is a type of isoflavone, was added to breast cancer cells they grew faster. Soon after, it was suggested that women who were taking tamoxifen and other anti-estrogens should avoid soy because soy acted like a weak estrogen, and could potentially counteract the tamoxifen or increase a woman's risk of recurrence. Suddenly, soy was now BAD!

That's why it was 
big news when a study conducted in Shanghai, China, published in December 2009 in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that women with breast cancer who ate soy had a decreased risk of having a cancer recurrence or dying of the disease.

The study was based on data from the Shanghai Breast Cancer Survival Study, which includes 5024 female breast cancer survivors. After following the women for four years, the researchers found that the higher a woman's soy protein or soy isoflavone intake, the lower her risk of having a breast cancer recurrence or dying from the disease. This was true regardless of whether women had ER-positive or ER-negative tumors, whether or not they were taking tamoxifen, and whether they were pre- or postmenopausal. (Although the researchers didn't look at this question, the findings would be expected to be the same for women on aromatase inhibitors.)

The study's authors pointed out that there are differences in the types of soy eaten by women in Asia and women in the U.S. In Asia, women are more likely to eat whole soy foods, like cooked soybeans, edamame, tofu, miso, and soy milk, whereas in the U.S. women tend to eat more processed foods that contain soy—and at much lower levels.

This is additional evidence that women in the U.S. with breast cancer can feel even better about adding whole soy foods to their diet. To be sure, we need more studies in women to confirm this finding. But a study of this size that has been so well done and that shows no negative effects clearly suggests that eating soy will not increase your risk of a recurrence and that, in fact, it might even reduce it!

What about soy letcithin? It is extracted from soybeans, but it is not part of the soy protein. As a result, it does not contain any isoflavones, which are the part of the soybean that acts as an estrogen. It is primarily used as an emulsifier to hold ingredients together. So, there is also no reason to worry that you are getting lots of isoflavones in your diet each time you chew gum or take a supplement.

The soy story also shows us why we can't over simplify the science. Soy is not a phytoestrogen but rather a "phytoSERM," more like tamoxifen than estrogen. It also reinforces that we cannot automatically extrapolate from studies on cells and rats to women. We need to do studies on women so that we know what happens in women's bodies.

This post is courtesy of the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation, dedicated to eradicating breast cancer and improving the quality of women's health through innovative research, education and advocacy.  To support this important cause and donate, visit

In keeping with staying on top of some of the most pertinent issues, Army of Women is helping to fill this study specifically related to soy and how it may affect breast density (another hot news topic).  If you fit or might know someone, please consider joining the study!

Dear AnneMarie,

Studies have shown that eating soy in the diet reduces breast cancer risk but we don't know why. This study is looking into whether it does this by decreasing breast density. A research team at the University of Southern California is looking for women with a family history of breast cancer AND breast cancer survivors to participate in a study to see if taking a soy supplement (in tablet form) for one year can reduce breast density or slow or reduce cell growth in the breast. Study participants cannot be currently receiving cancer treatment.

Please read on to learn more about what's involved and who can participate. If this study isn't right for you, please pass it on! Help us reach as many eligible women as possible!

What's the study about?

The research team is studying the effects of one year of soy supplementation on women with a family history of breast cancer (high-risk women) AND women who have been treated for ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) or invasive breast cancer. They want to see if soy can reduce breast density or slow or reduce cell growth in the breast.

What's involved?

If you sign up for the Effects of Soy on Breast Tissue Study, you will be randomly assigned (like flipping a coin) to receive either soy tablets or inactive placebo tablets for one year. You will be asked to take one tablet daily and record your intake on a pill diary.

You will also be asked to attend five clinic visits at the University of Southern California/Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, in Los Angeles, or the Los Angeles County-University of Southern California Los Angeles (LAC-USC) Medical Center. If you take part in the study, you will have the following procedures:

• 5 blood draws and urine collections: one at the beginning of the study, and then at the end of months 3, 6, 9, and 12
• 2 mammograms and 2 magnetic resonance imaging scans (MRI): one each at the beginning of the study and the other at the end of month 12
• 2 breast biopsies: one at the beginning of the study and the other at the end of month 12. This procedure is conducted in the clinic under local anesthesia.

You will also be asked to complete questionnaires about your medical history, including your menstrual and pregnancy history, your use of hormones including oral contraceptives and menopausal hormones, your use of other medications, and your dietary habits.

Who is conducting the study?

Anna Wu, PhD, Augustin Garcia, MD, Debra Hawes, MD, Linda Hovanessian-Larsen, MD, Heather McDonald, MD, Sue Ellen Martin, MD, Malcolm Pike, MD, Pulin Sheth, MD, Darcy Spicer, MD, and Debu Tripathy, MD, at the University of Southern California


University of Southern California/Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Los Angeles County-University of Southern California Los Angeles (LAC-USC) Medical Center, Los Angeles, CA

Who can participate?

You can sign up for the Effects of Soy on Breast Tissue Study if you meet ALL of these MAIN criteria:

• You are a woman between the ages of 30-75

• You
o Have been previously diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) or invasive breast cancer OR
o You have a family history of breast cancer

• You are not currently receiving cancer treatment, including tamoxifen, aromatase inhibitor, chemotherapy, radiation, or other forms of treatment

• You are not currently taking oral contraceptives (birth control pills)

• You are not currently taking hormone therapy

• You do not have soy allergies

• You are willing to refrain from consuming all soy food and supplements during the 1-year study period

• You live near or are willing to travel to the Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, in Los Angeles, and the Los Angeles County-University of Southern California Los Angeles (LAC-USC) Medical Center

After you RSVP, the research team will contact you to ask additional questions to be sure that this study is a good fit for you.

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