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Soy food intake and risk of endometrial cancer among Chinese women in Shanghai

It is known that Chinese women have significantly lower rates of endometrial cancer compared with Western women and lower rates of endometrial cancer may explained by soy. Endometrial cancer is an increasing problem in Western countries, mainly aggravated by obesity. Obese women have higher levels of natural estrogen because fat tissue also produces estrogens. Estrogens can increase the risk of endometrial cancer. According to a report of the May 29 issue of the British Medical Journal eating soy regularly reduces the risk of endometrial cancer by 30 percent to 40 percent among the women studied in Shanghai.

This protective effect of soy was particularly significant among obese women, who are at high risk for endometrial cancer. Soy foods may be protective because they are rich in isoflavones, which act like estrogen in the body but are not as potent as natural estrogen. Isoflavones alter the endogenous oestrogen concentrations by binding competitively to oestrogen receptors, thereby inhibiting important steroid biosynthetic enzymes, increasing the clearance of steroids from the circulation and stimulating the production of sex hormone binding globulin.

Professor Shu and her colleagues collected data from 982 Chinese women in Shanghai, aged between 30 and 69 years, and who were diagnosed with endometrial cancer and compared them with 846 healthy Chinese women. The researchers measured the amount of soy foods eaten over five years and the women's current body weight. In this study, the average intake of soy isoflavones was about 25 times more than Western women, whereas the incident rate of endometrial cancer is only one fifth to one third that in Western countries.

Because the number of women in the study was small, further research in a larger population is needed to con¬firm this finding.

Wang Hong Xu et al., British Medical Journal 2004 May 29; 328 (7451): 1285
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