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Isoflavones cut risk of endometrial cancer

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By David Liu, PHD

Monday Sept 10, 2012 (foodconsumer.org) -- Eating foods high in isoflavones may cut endometrial cancer risk, according to a study recently published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Nicholas J. Ollberding of University of Hawaii Cancer Center, Epidemiology Program in Honolulu, HI and colleagues conducted the study and found women with highest intake of total isoflavones were 36 percent less likely to be diagnosed with endometrial cancer, compared to those who ate lowest amounts.

Early research suggests that phytochemicals in soy and other legumes may reduce the risk of endometrial cancer, but not all studies are consistent.  The current study was meant to examine the association between endometrial cancer risk and dietary intake of legumes, soy, and tofu, and for total isoflavones and specific isoflavones (daidzein, genistein, or glycitein).

In the study, the researchers analysed data on diet and other risk factors for endometrial cancer from 46,027 nonhysterectomized postmenopausal women who were enrolled in the Multiethnic Cohort (MEC) Study between Aug. 1993 and Aug. 1996.    During an average 13.5-year follow-up, 489 women were diagnosed with incident endometrial cancer and identified through the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results tumor registry linkages. 

High intake of total isoflavones, daidzein, and genistein each was significantly associated with reduced risk of endometrial cancer.  The risk reduction in those who had the highest intake, compared to those with the lowest intake was at 34 percent.   However, no statistically significant association with endometrial cancer risk was observed for increased intake of legumes, soy, tofu, or glycitein. 

Daidzein and genistein are metabolites of soy isoflavones found in soy or tofu. Interestingly the study did not find a significant association between soy and risk of endometrial cancer. Considering early and current research, it is likely that soy and tofu may have some beneficial effect against the cancer.

The researchers concluded "This study suggests that greater consumption of isoflavone-containing foods is associated with a reduced risk of endometrial cancer in this population of nonhysterectomized postmenopausal women."

Isoflavones are available as supplements.  Soybean is one of the foods that contain high amounts of isoflavones.

Endometrial cancer is expected to be diagnosed in 47,130 women in the United States in 2012 and the disease will kill 8,010 women in the same year, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Endometrial cancer symptoms include abnormal bleeding from the vagina, extremely long, heavy, or frequent episodes of vaginal bleeding after age 40, lower abdominal pain or pelvic cramping and thin white or clear vaginal discharge postmenopause.

Endometrial cancer treatment options include the same old surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.

Eating garlic, onions, drinking coffee, sun exposure or maintaining high levels of serum vitamin D, and exercise was associated with reduced risk of endometrial cancer while alcohol drinking,  obesity, being tall, meat consumption, and hormone therapy was linked to increased risk. 

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