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Soy Products as a Hormone Replacement Alternative



My wife (70 yrs. old) recently had a lumpectomy for breast cancer followed by radiation and is now on Tamoxifen. She has been removed from the HRT she had been on for many years and has now begun having hot flashes. In your answer to a question from another person you were asked about soy products instead of HRT? Would these be an advisable and safe alternative to HRT for my wife and not compromise the needs for stopping taking estrogen ? Thank you.


Currently, there are many studies being done around the country looking at the possible benefits of eating soy products on menopause symptoms in breast cancer patients. From what I could determine, there is yet no agreement on the use of soy with cancer patients…but the research looks promising. One researcher stated: "The potential for dietary soy supplementation to serve as an alternative to HRT has been documented in both animal studies and in a few human clinical trials." Then goes on to say, "Current data from human and animal studies suggest that soy protein supplementation does not appear to be associated with other "traditional HRT" related outcomes, such as changes in the breast...

Longer term and larger studies are needed to better address the issue of potential adverse outcomes associated with isoflavone intake." Other studies are finding that breast cancer rates are lower in Asian women (who have soy-rich diets) than U.S. women (with low soy diets). With this in mind, many of my colleagues and I are comfortable recommending soy foods in moderate amounts for the relief of menopausal symptoms. FYI: The Ohio Soy Council website listed these soy foods as excellent sources of isoflavones (providing a range of 30 - 50 milligrams per serving): Roasted soy nuts (1 ounce), Soy flour (1/2 cup), Soy grits (1/4 cup), Textured soy protein (1/2 cup, cooked), Yellow, green vegetable or black soybeans (1/2 cup, cooked), Regular soymilk (1 Cup), Tempeh (1/2 cup), and Tofu (1/2 cup). So, although the role of soy research is encouraging it is not conclusive.

Before including soy products in your wife`s diet I`d recommend that she discuss this with her oncologist. The doctor knows her medical history and can help her make an informed decision. For more information you may try reading the book "A Dietitian`s Cancer Story" by Diana Dyer, MS,RD or check out the Ohio Soybean Council`s website below. I wish you and your wife the best of health.

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Response by:

Jane   Korsberg, MS, RD, LD Jane Korsberg, MS, RD, LD
Senior Instructor of Nutrition
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University