For breast cancer survivors, soy is protective and alcohol is harmful

 Two new studies have examined the effects of certain dietary factors on recurrence of breast cancer in survivors. Soy had protective effects, and alcohol had detrimental effects.  Read the full article on

Soy and breast cancer recurrence


Some individuals suspected and even promoted the idea that soy was potentially dangerous with regard to breast cancer risk, because of the phyto-estrogenic compounds it contains. However, in Asian countries where soy is a staple food, rates of breast cancer were much lower than those in the U.S. This paradox launched much debate and hundreds of studies on the relationship between soy and breast cancer.

A review of the most recent clinical studies on this subject supports a protective effect of soy:

  •  2006: A meta-analysis in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute examining data from 18 studies on soy and breast cancer that were published between 1978 and 2004 concluded that soy overall has a protective effect.1
  • 2008: A meta-analysis in the British Journal of Nutrition compiling data from 8 different studies (not included in the 2006 meta-analysis) also concluded that soy consumption decreases breast cancer risk. These effects were dose-dependent – a 16% reduced risk for each 10 mg of soy isoflavones consumed daily.2

In spite of these clear documented results, the myth that soy contributes to breast cancer has persisted. Plus, many scientists and physicians continue to doubt the safety of soy for current or previous breast cancer patients, because of soy’s phytoestrogen content.

A new study of breast cancer survivors has shown that these doubts are unwarranted too. Premenopausal breast cancer survivors who consumed more soy had a 23% reduced risk of recurrence.3

Which soy products are most beneficial?

Cruciferous vegetables are the most powerful anti-cancer foods. In addition, Dr. Fuhrman also recommends consuming a variety of beans, including soybeans, as components of an anti-cancer diet. Soybeans may be consumed as edamame (whole soybeans), or in minimally processed forms such as unsweetened soymilk, tofu, and tempeh. As little as 10 mg of soy isoflavones consumed per day has a protective effect with regard to breast cancer – this equates to approximately 1 ounce of one of these soy foods.


Alcohol and breast cancer recurrence


In contrast to the mainstream assumption that alcohol is heart healthy, even moderate amounts of alcohol are associated with increased risk for breast cancer.4

The current study of breast cancer survivors showed that women who consumed 3-4 alcoholic drinks per week were 34% more likely to experience a recurrence than the women who had less than 1 drink per week. This study was presented last week at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.5

Alcohol has no beneficial effect on the cardiovascular system, it only inhibits the blood’s clotting mechanisms. Since breast cancer is the second leading cause of death in women (second to cardiovascular disease), Dr. Fuhrman recommends minimizing alcohol consumption in order to reduce this risk.

Read the full article here.

Read “Dr. Fuhrman on Breast Cancer” to learn more diet and lifestyle strategies for breast cancer prevention.



1. Trock BJ et al. Meta-analysis of soy intake and breast cancer risk. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2006 Apr 5;98(7):459-71.

2. Wu AH et al. Epidemiology of soy exposures and breast cancer risk. British Journal of Cancer (2008) 98, 9– 14

3. Guha N et al. Soy isoflavones and risk of cancer recurrence in a cohort of breast cancer survivors: the Life After Cancer Epidemiology study. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2009 Nov;118(2):395-405. Epub 2009 Feb 17.

4. Lew JQ et al. Alcohol and risk of breast cancer by histologic type and hormone receptor status in postmenopausal women: the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study. Am J Epidemiol. 2009 Aug 1;170(3):308-17. Epub 2009 Jun 18.



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Comments (7) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Emily - December 16, 2009 6:43 PM

What about soy consumption in children? I've held off on letting my daughter drink soy milk (we drink almond milk) because I was concerned about the amount of soy she could drink a day (she could easily drink 2-3 large glasses). I'd read that even just 1 cup of soy milk is much more soy than is normally consumed by people in Asia.

Liz - December 16, 2009 7:47 PM

Thank you so much for addresing this topic. Try as I might I can't seem to persuade anyone I know in the vegetarian and vegan community that soy isn't dangerous. It's the myth that won't die.

Cheryl - December 17, 2009 5:13 PM

My understanding is that there's a difference between the fermented soy used in Asian countries and the non-fermented soy products used here, and that the altered form of isoflavones in non-fermented soy products isn't cancer fighting and may be cancer producing. As a survivor whose cancer was ER+ I'm not taking a chance and I urge other survivors to proceed cautiously.

Jenni - December 17, 2009 6:13 PM

Another fantastic way to decrease breast cancer is to just breastfeed your child! My son is going on three, and we still do! ;)

Deana Ferreri - December 18, 2009 12:22 PM

The soy products consumed by the women in the study were a combination of fermented and non-fermented. The common thread was that they were all minimally processed - tofu, soymilk, miso, natto, etc.

Excessive amounts of isolated protein - like in protein powders and some processed foods - have potential cancer-producing properties.

Chuck - December 19, 2009 2:39 AM

I have been checking this out with soy. The definitive sources say that soy is good for you like the government sites. Also an MD wrote a book with the 23 healthiest foods and the 18th healthiest foods. Soy is in both of the lists.

One site gave reasons that soy is not healthy. It said that it had too high levels of manganese so it was toxic. When was the last time you heard of a food having too much of a nutrient or being too nutrient dense? Then it said that fermented soy was healthy.

Well fermenting or cooking cannot destroy manganese which is a mineral element. So it would have the same levels of manganese. So how do you destroy a mineral? Any nuclear physicist would know the answer to this. Even an atom bomb explosion cannot destroy minerals. With a hydrogen fusion bomb you can fuse minerals together to create other minerals. That happens in the sun.

Alcohol is a legal drug. It used to be an illegal drug during prohibition. Little children get run over and killed by drunk drivers. A block from me a 15 year old girl got hit by a drunk driver and she flew 25 feet through the air and was dead before hitting the ground. The drunk driver did not have a license since it was taken away for drunk driving. She went to prison but that does not help the dead girl out.

Texas breast reduction - January 11, 2010 2:21 AM

Thank you so much for this information. My sister-in-law underwent a breast removal surgery after being diagnosed stage 2 borderline 3. She is undergoing a chemotherapy now and I am taking utmost care to keep her away from drinks, since she is heavily addicted to alcohol.

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