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Soy and Breast Cancer
Soy foods have become controversial in recent years, even among health professionals, and exacerbated by misinformation found on the Internet.
Chief among the misconceptions is that soy foods promote breast cancer, because they contain a class of phytoestrogen compounds called isoflavones. Since estrogens can promote breast cancer growth, it’s natural to assume phytoestrogens might too.
But, people don’t realize there are two types of estrogen receptors in the body—alpha and beta. And, unlike actual estrogen, soy phytoestrogens “preferentially bind to and activate [estrogen receptor beta]. This distinction is important, because the 2 [types of receptors] have different tissue distributions…and often function differently, and sometimes in opposite ways.” And, this appears to be the case in the breast, where beta activation has an anti-estrogenic effect, inhibiting the growth-promoting effects of actual estrogen—something that has been known for more than ten years.
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