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Curr Protein Pept Sci. 2018;19(3):323-332. doi: 10.2174/1389203718666170111121255.

Molecular Mechanisms of Anticancer Effects of Phytoestrogens in Breast Cancer.

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Department of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Kaohsiung Medical University Hospital, Kaohsiung. Taiwan.
Graduate Institute of Medicine, College of Medicine, Kaohsiung Medical University, Kaohsiung. Taiwan.


Phytoestrogens derived from plants exert estrogenic as well as antiestrogenic effects and multiple actions within breast cancer cells. Chemopreventive properties of phytoestrogens have emerged from epidemiological observations. In recent clinical research studies, phytoestrogens are safe and may even protect against breast cancer. In this brief review, the molecular mechanisms of phytoestrogens on regulation of cell cycle, apoptosis, estrogen receptors, cell signaling pathways, and epigenetic modulations in relation to breast cancer are discussed. Phytoestrogens have a preferential affinity for estrogen receptor (ER)-β, which appears to be associated with antiproliferative and anticarcinogenic effects. Moreover, while phytoestrogens not only inhibit ER-positive but also ER-negative breast cancer cells, the possibility of epigenetic modulation playing an important role is also discussed. In conclusion, as there are multiple targets and actions of phytoestrogens, extensive research is still necessary. However, due to low toxicity, low cost, and easy availability, their potent chemoprevention effects deserve further study.


Phytoestrogen; apoptosis; breast cancer; cell signaling; epigenetic modulation; estrogen receptor

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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