Does consuming isoflavones reduce or increase breast cancer risk?

Maria Bondesson, Jan Ake Gustafsson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Epidemiological studies suggest that consumption of phytoestrogens, in particular isoflavones, correlates with a lower incidence of breast cancer. However, data from human intervention studies have been less clear. Several meta-analyses have reported beneficial but relatively weak effects of isoflavone consumption on reduction of hot flushes and osteoporosis and improvement of cholesterol levels. However, the effects of isoflavones on early breast cancer markers differ between pre- and post-menopausal women. Conclusions on whether exposure of animals (mice and rats) to isoflavones protects against or promotes breast cancer development and growth vary between different studies. These results, taken together with the heterogeneous outcomes of human interventions, have led to a controversy surrounding the intake of isoflavone to reduce breast cancer risk. Here, we describe the results of recent human and animal intervention studies and discuss factors that might explain the variation in results. We also describe possible molecular mechanisms of action of isoflavones; distinguishing which mechanism(s) are involved is needed if we are to solve the controversy surrounding the actions of these compounds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number90
JournalGenome Medicine
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 21 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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