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Baillieres Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1998 Dec;12(4):707-28.

Soyfoods, isoflavones and risk of colonic cancer: a review of the in vitro and in vivo data.

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Loma Linda University, California, USA.


Soy foods and soybean components have received considerable attention of late for their potential role in reducing cancer risk. Although the relationship between soy intake and the risk of breast and prostate cancer has been the focus of most interest, the relationship between soy intake and other cancers, including colorectal cancer, has also been studied. Several anti-carcinogens have been identified in soybeans, but most enthusiasm for the potential anti-cancer effects of soy undoubtedly stems from work involving soybean isoflavones. Isoflavones have a limited distribution in nature, and, for practical purposes, soyfoods are the only nutritionally relevant dietary source of these phytochemicals. Isoflavones are weak oestrogens but possess other potentially important biological attributes independent of their ability to bind to the oestrogen receptor. The isoflavone genistein inhibits the growth of most types of hormone-dependent and hormone-independent cancer cells in vitro, including colonic cancer cells. Several mechanisms for the in vitro anti-cancer effects of genistein have been proposed, including effects on signal transduction. A number of epidemiological studies, primarily of Asian origin, have examined the relationship between soy intake and the risk of colorectal cancer. Although these studies provide little support for a protective effect of soy, concerns have been raised about the completeness of the soy intake data, since soy was not the focus of these studies and most of this research was conducted prior to the recent interest in the anti-cancer effects of soy. The effect of soy/isoflavone intake has also been studied in rodents, but again these data are conflicting and provide only modest support for a protective effect. Although the relationship between soy intake and colonic cancer risk is certainly worthy of further investigation, there is, at the moment, very limited support for soy exerting a protective effect against this type of cancer.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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