Breast Cancer: Aetiological Factors and Associations (A Possible Protective Role of Phytoestrogens)

January 1, 1997 Human Health and Nutrition Data 0 Comments

Breast Cancer: Aetiological Factors and Associations (A Possible Protective Role of Phytoestrogens)

Year: 1997
Authors: F O Stephens.
Publication Name: Aust. N.Z.J. Surg.
Publication Details: Volume 67; Number 11; 755.


Despite increasing knowledge regarding known and suspected factors associated with the risk of breast cancer, the incidence of the disease has continued to increase over recent decades in Western societies. In contrast. an equivalent increase in the breast cancer risk of women of Asian and other less Westernized societies has not occurred. The author notes that, unlike in non-Westernized cultures where the diet is mostly vegetarian, the Western diet is characterized by a high content of meat and dairy products as well as ‘refined’ foods. In this paper, the author reports the results of a comprehensive literature review in which etiological factors and associations related to breast cancer were assessed. Stephen notes that a number of contributory factors to increased rates of breast cancer in Western societies have been identified in the literature. A Western style diet elevates plasma levels of sex hormones and decreases levels of sex hormone binding globulin thus increasing the exposure of breast and other tissues to these hormones. Evidence is increasing to support the view that lignans and isoflavonoids are principally responsible for the anti-carcinogenic properties of vegetarian diets. These phytoestrogens appear to be biologically active in a number of ways including possessing both weak estrogenic effects and an anti-estrogenic competitive effect. Phytoestrogens compete with estrogen for receptor binding; induce sex hormone binding globulin thus influencing sex hormone metabolism and reducing biological exposure to prolonged estrogen activity. The author concludes that the negative health aspects of Western style diets may include the presence of high fat meat and dairy products as well as the absence of desirable compounds typical of vegetarian diets, namely dietary fibre and certain plant lignans and isoflavonoids. Dietary modifications to include higher levels of fibre, soy, flaxseed and other leguminous plant food should be encouraged. These types of recommendations would impact most significantly the long term health of girls and young women in Western societies. (93 references)

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