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Phytoestrogens and Cancer: What's the Connection?

Phytoestrogens and Cancer: What's the Connection?

Phytoestrogens might be something new for some people but these are used to help improve the body’s condition. These are found in certain foods and when ingested, they can have an estrogen-like response. Apart from its positive effects, phytoestrogens and cancer are often linked to each other. Let’s find out which foods have this and which plays a part in cancers.

What Are Phytoestrogens?

Phytoestrogens are naturally occurring compounds that act like estrogens in the body. These “dietary estrogens” are found in foods such as:

  • Soybeans, soy products such as tofu and other legumes
  • Fruits (apples, grapes, apricots, berries)
  • Vegetables (kale, broccoli, onions tomatoes, lettuce, celery, spinach)
  • Herbs and seeds (clover, flaxseeds, whole grains)
  • Other food such as chocolates, green tea, red wine, multigrain bread

There are two major groups of phytoestrogens which are isoflavones and lignans. It has a similar structure and estrogen receptors treat it the same as the body’s natural estrogens.

What About Phytoestrogens and Cancer?

There are two opposing sides to phytoestrogens and cancer. It is said that increased exposure to phytoestrogen can increase the risk of breast cancer.

Estrogen can promote the formation of breast tumors and phytoestrogen can pose an additional risk to the body. The relationship between the compound and cancer may not be conclusive as there are a lot of factors that can affect the growth of cancer.

On the other hand, foods with phytoestrogen consumed starting puberty can help protect the body from breast cancer. Also, as there are different subgroups of phytoestrogens, these may have different effects on the body.

Some boost the effectiveness of cancer treatments while others may be harmful to the body if in excess.

What Are The Benefits and Risks of Phytoestrogens?

We have seen where phytoestrogens are found and the connection between phytoestrogens and cancer, but what about how it helps or harms the body? Here are some of the benefits and risks of phytoestrogens.

Help reduce risks of cardiovascular disease

Studies show that an increase in soy consumption can help in reducing the risk of heart diseases. It can be seen in fewer Asians having cardiovascular diseases compared to their western counterparts.

Lowers risk of osteoporosis

Bone density has been an issue of aging and menopause. Estrogen helps in maintaining the bone’s strength. Phytoestrogen can be a way to increase estrogen levels in the body.

Helps in managing menopausal symptoms

When women become older, their body stops developing estrogen. They experience menopausal symptoms such as mood swings and hot flashes. Consuming food with phytoestrogens helps reduce these symptoms.

Disrupts endocrine development

There are studies that also show that soy foods can cause irregular menstrual cycles and somehow affect fertility.

Also, there are a few experiments on rats that show that a soy-rich diet changes the sexual behavior and abnormal development of the female reproductive organ.

These benefits and risks might need further research in the future to understand fully how phytoestrogens work in the body. T

here might be changes in how we consume food and how it affects the body, whether it be positive or negative, which may or may not be related to phytoestrogens.

Key Takeaways

Phytoestrogens are in the food that we normally eat on a daily basis. Like most food, when consumed in moderation, it can help fight off different conditions and improve your way of living.

If you feel that this can affect your body in any way, it is best to consult your doctor or medical practitioner to assist you.

Links between phytoestrogens and cancer can be both on the positive or negative side, but these are not conclusive as there are many factors that can cause it. Future studies can bring more clarity on how phytoestrogens affect the body.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


The pros and cons of phytoestrogens,, Accessed July 16, 2021

Phytoestrogens and prevention of breast cancer: The contentious debate,, Accessed July 16, 2021

Role of phytoestrogens in cancer therapy,, Accessed July 16, 2021

Engagement of phytoestrogens in breast cancer suppression: Structural classification and mechanistic approach,, Accessed July 16, 2021

Phytoestrogens and breast cancer,, Accessed July 16, 2021

Biomonitoring Summary,, Accessed July 16, 2021


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Written by Elaine Felicitas Updated Jul 21, 2021
Fact Checked by Hello Doctor Medical Panel