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Breast cancer and phytoestrogens

Thanks to much advanced medical technologies, nowadays it is possible to make proper analysis and discover the type of breast cancer – it is absolutely crucial for future treatments and prevention of breast cancer recurrences.

There are different types of breast cancer:

  • Endocrine receptor-positive (estrogen or progesterone receptors)
    About 80% of all breast cancers are “ER-positive.” That means the cancer cells grow in response to the hormone estrogen. About 65% of these are also “PR-positive.” They grow in response to another hormone, progesterone.
  • HER2-positive
    In about 20% of breast cancers, the cells make too much of a protein known as HER2. These cancers tend to be aggressive and fast-growing.
  • Triple positive: positive for estrogen receptors, progesterone receptors, and HER2
    This type is the combination of two previous types.
  • Triple negative: not positive for estrogen receptors, progesterone receptors, and HER2
    About 10-20% of breast cancer cases are known as “triple negative” because they don’t have not only estrogen and progesterone receptors but also don’t over-express the HER2 protein. Most breast cancers associated with the gene BRCA1 are triple negative.

For all mentioned types of breast cancer medical approaches for surgery and radiation was very similar and even sometimes the same. But approaches for chemotherapy and future hormone therapy are very specific and different. Important to mention that future anticancer diet is also different depending on the type of breast cancer cells.

Women should pay a special attention to the anticancer diet in cases of hormone-sensitive (especially in cases of ER-positive) tumors. Usually women with estrogen-positive receptors must take specific anti-estrogen medication for 5-10 years (after surgery, chemotherapy and radiation) which can prevent recurrences. At the same time, any food rich of estrogen or food which can be involved in estrogen production should be excluded from the diet.

Phytoestrogens – Estrogen rich food


Estrogen is increasingly recognized as a cause of breast cancer (especially in cases of estrogen-sensitive receptors). Both elevated concentrations of estrogen produced by body and received with food are associated with an increased risk of breast cancer (especially for postmenopausal women).

Phytoestrogens are structurally estrogen-like chemicals found in plant foods such as beans, seeds and grains. Foods made from soybeans have some of the highest levels of phytoestrogens. In laboratory studies it was shown that phytoestrogens can bind to estrogen receptors and either produce or inhibit estrogen effects.

Flaxseeds (also called “linseeds”) are generally ground and used in breads, cereals and salads to boost the absorption rate. Flaxseeds are the number one way to help get more estrogen into the body. Flaxseeds are the source of omega-3s and are high in fiber.
Flaxseeds have the most quantity of phytoestrogens – about 380 mcg per 100 g.

Chickpeas are a natural source of phytoestrogen. Chickpeas are also high in fiber and protein, which makes them a great choice if you’re looking to reduce your meat consumption.

Peas contain not only phytoestrogen but also minerals like magnesium, iron and potassium. Peas are full of fiber and are a surprising source of Vitamin C.

Beans – Soybeans
Beans contain high fiber and protein; they are relatively high in phytoestrogen.
Soybeans are one of the richest sources of phytoestrogens and they also contain some minerals (iron, magnesium, calcium and potassium). One cup of soyneabs contains about 100 mcg of phytoestrogen per 100 g.
Tempeh is derived from soybeans and doesn’t lose its estrogen content during the process.

Soy milk
Soy milk is a beverage made from soy beans. Soy milk is derived from soy of course, and therefore gives the same benefits as tofu, tempeh, and soybeans in regards to the phytoestrogen it contains. Soy milk is also a good source of calcium. One cup of soy milk contains about 3000 mcg phytoestrogens per 100 g.
Tofu (so called “bean curd”) is produced from soy milk and is high in phytoestrogens called isoflavones.
Soy yogurt (so called “bean curd yogurt”) is the yogurt made from soy milk. A cup of this yoghurt contains about 10000 mcg of phytoestrogens per 100 g.

Sesame seeds
Sesame seeds contain phytoestrogens. They are also loaded with fiber, and they are also a great source of minerals (iron, magnesium, and calcium).
One ounce of sesame seeds contains about 8000 mcg of phytoestrogens per 100g.

Multi-grain bread
Whole grains like oats, barley, rye and wheat have phytoestrogens known as lignans.

Dried apricots, dates and prunes
Dried fruits (especially dried apricots, dates and prunes) contain phytoestrogens which can mimic estrogen reactions in the body – producing the same effect as if you had generated more estrogen in the body.

General recommendation

Eating a plant-based diet, engaging in daily physical activity such as walking, limiting or avoiding alcohol, getting enough sleep and incorporating stress reducing behaviors into your life are the best way to promote health as a breast cancer survivor.

Furthermore, weight gain and high body weight are correlated with risk for breast cancer recurrence, so choosing low calorie diet in combination with physical activities could be the best choice for breast cancer survivors.

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