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Prevalence, sources, and predictors of soy consumption in breast cancer

Carolyn A Lammersfeld*, Jessica King, Sharon Walker, Pankaj G Vashi, James F Grutsch, Christopher G Lis and Digant Gupta

Author affiliations

Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) at Midwestern Regional Medical Center, 2610 Sheridan Road, Zion, IL, 60099, USA

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Citation and License

Nutrition Journal 2009, 8:2  doi:10.1186/1475-2891-8-2

Published: 22 January 2009



A number of components in soy appear to have anticancer properties, including the isoflavones, genistein and daidzein. The use of soy by women with breast cancer is now being questioned because of the estrogen-like effects of isoflavones and possible interactions with tamoxifen. Clinicians providing nutrition counseling to these women are concerned because the availability of soy foods has increased dramatically in the past few years. The goal of this study was to quantify the intake of isoflavones in women with breast cancer.


A cross-sectional study of 100 women with breast cancer treated at Cancer Treatment Centers of America® between 09/03 and 02/04. Each patient completed a soy food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) that was scored by Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Demographic and clinical predictors of soy intake were evaluated using one-way non-parametric Mann Whitney test and non-parametric spearman's rank correlation.


Mean age was 50.5 years (std. dev. = 9.4; range 31–70) and mean BMI was 27.3 kg/m2 (std. dev. = 6.75; range 17–59). Genistein and Daidzein consumption was limited to 65 patients with a mean intake of 11.6 mg/day (std. dev. = 21.9; range 0–97.4) and 7.6 mg/day (std. dev. = 14.1; range 0–68.9) respectively. Soy milk (37%) and pills containing soy, isoflavones, or "natural" estrogen (24%) were the two biggest contributors to isoflavone intake.


Our study suggests that the isoflavone intake of breast cancer patients at our hospital was quite variable. Thirty-five patients reported no soy intake. The mean daily intake of 11.6 mg genistein and 7.4 mg daidzein, is the equivalent of less than 1/4 cup of tofu per day. This amount is higher than what has been previously reported in non-Asian American women.