Soybean phytoestrogen intake and cancer risk.J Nutr 1995; 125(3 Suppl):757S-770SJN
Because many Western diseases are hormone-dependent cancers, we have postulated that the Western diet, compared with a vegetarian or semi-vegetarian diet, may alter hormone production, metabolism or action at the cellular level. Recently, our interest has been focused on the cancer-protective role of some hormone-like diphenolic phytoestrogens of dietary origin, the lignans and isoflavonoids. The precursors of the biologically active compounds originate in soybean products (mainly isoflavonoids but also lignans), as well as whole grain cereals, seeds, probably berries and nuts (mainly lignans). The plant lignan and isoflavonoid glycosides are converted by intestinal bacteria to hormone-like compounds with weak estrogenic and antioxidative activity; they have now been shown to influence not only sex hormone metabolism and biological activity but also intracellular enzymes, protein synthesis, growth factor action, malignant cell proliferation, differentiation and angiogenesis, making them strong candidates for a role as natural cancer protective compounds. Epidemiological investigations support this hypothesis, because the highest levels of these compounds are found in countries or regions with low cancer incidence. This report is a review of results that suggest that the diphenolic isoflavonoids and lignans are natural cancer-protective compounds.