Soy may improve survival rates in some breast cancer patients

Women who adhered more closely to a Mediterranean diet were 40 per cent less likely to develop ER-negative breast cancerJM HIRSCH  AP

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that in 2013 (the most recent year the numbers were available), 40,860 women died from breast cancer in the US and 464 men died in the U.S. Using a technique that relates the dietary habits and inflammatory markers in the blood, researchers have given to each participant a score corresponding to the extent that the diet promote the manifestation of inflammation.

"Isoflavones - the component of soy that has estrogen-like properties - have been shown to slow the growth of breast cancer cells in laboratory studies, and epidemiological analyses in East Asian women with breast cancer found links between higher isoflavone intake and reduced mortality", Dr. Zhang says. Those in the group with the highest score were 35 percent more likely to develop premenopausal breast cancer, compared with those in the group with the lowest score. The trial included a total of 6235 American and Canadian women suffering from breast cancer.

The study, led by nutrition and cancer epidemiologist Fang Fang Zhang, M.D., Ph.D., from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, was published March 6 in Cancer.

Some studies have linked the consumption of soy products with breast cancer.

The diet also involves moderate consumption of red wine, but because alcohol can up the risk of breast cancer it was eliminated from the study.

Researchers from the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health examined the potential effect of a diet associated with chronic inflammation on breast cancer.

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Researchers studied women who, as high schoolers, had consumed diets thought to increase levels of inflammation in the body.

Although survival from breast cancer is high - at a rate of 82% five-year survival - it remains the second most common cause of cancer death in women, with an average of 690 deaths a year in Ireland during 2011 - 2012.

Study leader Prof Piet van den Brandt said ER-negative breast cancer is harder to treat and more likely to prove fatal.

In contrast to some previous research, high levels of isoflavone intake were not associated with greater mortality among women receiving hormonal therapy. "Women who did not receive endocrine therapy as a treatment for their breast cancer had a weaker, but still statistically significant, association". Also, soy had a protective effect in those women with hormone receptor-negative tumors.

She said: "This study adds to evidence that a healthy diet, full of "good" low-saturated fats, plays a part in lowering the risk".

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