Soy consumption alters endogenous estrogen metabolism in postmenopausal women

X. Xu, A. M. Duncan, K. E. Wangen, M. S. Kurzer

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121 Scopus citations


Isoflavones are soy phytoestrogens that have been suggested to be anticarcinogenic. Our previous study in premenopausal women suggested that the mechanisms by which isoflavones exert cancer-preventive effects may involve modulation of estrogen metabolism away from production of potentially carcinogenic metabolites [16α-(OH) estrone, 4-(OH) estrone, and 4-(OH) estradiol] (X. Xu et al., Cancer Epidemiol. Biomark. Prev., 7: 1101-1108, 1998). To further evaluate this hypothesis, a randomized, cross-over soy isoflavone feeding study was performed in 18 healthy postmenopausal women. The study consisted of three diet periods, each separated by a washout of ~3 weeks. Each diet period lasted for 93 days, during which subjects consumed their habitual diets supplemented with soy protein isolate providing 0.1 (control), 1, or 2 mg isoflavones/kg body weight/day (7.1 ± 1.1, 65 ± 11, or 132 ± 22 mg/day). A 72-h urine sample was collected 3 days before the study (baseline) and days 91-93 of each diet period. Urine samples were analyzed for 10 phytoestrogens and 15 endogenous estrogens and their metabolites by a capillary gas chromatography-mass spectrometry method. Compared with the soy-free baseline and very low isoflavone control diet, consumption of 65 mg isoflavones increased the urinary 2/16α-(OH) estrone ratio, and consumption of 65 or 132 mg isoflavones decreased excretion of 4-(OH) estrone. When compared with baseline values, consumption of all three soy diets increased the ratio of 2/4-(OH) estrogens and decreased the ratio of genotoxic: total estrogens. These data suggest that both isoflavones and other soy constituents may exert cancer-preventive effects in postmenopausal women by altering estrogen metabolism away from genotoxic metabolites toward inactive metabolites.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)781-786
Number of pages6
JournalCancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2000


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