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Breast Cancer Awareness: Digging Deeper What Does Plant-Based Estrogen Tell Us About Lowering Risk

Author, Dr. M.J. Doughty:

The research has been clear, estrogen has been linked to certain types of breast cancer in both human and synthetic forms. 80% of most breast cancer diagnosed are estrogen positive forms and others can be estrogen negative forms. The higher levels of estrogen in the body heightens the risk for breast cancer. The global world is seeking ways to find a cure to prevent breast cancer, yet there so many things about estrogen that we need to explore further through evidence-based research. Naturally, estrogen is the female hormone that is responsible for the development and regulation of the female reproductive system. Synthetically, estrogen has been added to products such as hormonal replacement therapy to alleviate menopausal symptoms. In 2003, hormonal replacement therapy (HRT) was linked to breast cancer (ACS, 2003). Hormonal replacement therapy (HRT) contains the estrogen hormone or it can contain a combination of progesterone and estrogen, which has been found to have a higher risk for breast cancer.

There is another form of estrogen, call Phytoestrogen or plant-based estrogens that scientist must explore deeper. Phytoestrogens are found in the foods that we eat on a daily basis. Many studies show controversial results related to whether or not plant-based estrogen lower risk for breast cancer. Research studies have shown that certain phytoestrogens can inhibit breast cancer cell growth; others may play a role in the exacerbation of breast cancer.

The most common phytoestrogen is soy or soybeans common in Asian countries where the prevalence of breast cancer is rare. However when Asians enter into the Western world, research finds that their risk for breast cancer increases, primarily due to adopting a Westernize culture of meats and sweets. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2004) discussed three major categories of phytoestrogens. They include, 1) isoflavones (soy beans, and soy products), 2) lignans (linseeds, whole grains), and 3) coumestans (broccoli and alfalfa sprouts). Supplements can also contain phytoestrogen to alleviate hormonal changes. The evidence is inconclusive related to whether or not phytoestrogens are protective against breast cancer and whether there are possible adverse effects related to the consumption phytoestrogens in the form of lignans and coumestans. However, there are cautions for women at risk of breast cancer related to soy products.

The foods with the highest phytoestrogens are:

Flaxseed, Soybeans, Soy nuts, Tofu Tempeh, Veggie Soy protein, Miso paste, Soy yogurt, Soy protein Powder, Sesame Seeds, Flax bread, and Soy Bacon Bits. Other phytoestrogens that are lower included black bean sauce, multigrain bread, soy milk, doughnuts, protein bars, soy veggie burgers, miso soup, hummus, black licorice, soy bean sprouts, garlic, mung bean sprouts, dried apricots, alfalfa sprouts, pistachios, dried dates, sunflower seeds, chestnuts, dried prunes, olive oil, soy sauce, rye bread, walnuts, almonds, cashews, winter squash, hazelnuts, green beans, collar greens, broccoli, peanut butter, cabbage, white beans, peaches, sesame bread, rad wine, strawberries and mung beans.

We do know that a diet rich in leafy green cruciferous vegetable, regular exercise, limiting alcohol intake and not smoking can lower risk for breast cancer. As scientists further explore ways to cure breast cancer the most important thing is to become educated about how estrogen affects the body. It is also important to understand that hereditary breast cancer represents about 10% of breast cancer cases; therefore the remaining is related to external factors. Therefore we must maintain a healthy diet, lower weight and learn about environmental factors that influence risk. Do the research on the third type of estrogen, phytoestrogens to determine how it effects your risk or lowers your risk for breast cancer.

Further Reading -

The pros and cons of phytoestrogens

Phytoestrogens and breast cancer, Regina G Ziegler The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 79, Issue 2, 1 February 2004, Pages 183–184,

Phytoestrogen Content of Foods Consumed in Canada, Including Isoflavones, Lignans, and Coumestan and

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