Soy Milk and Breast Cancer

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Q: Should breast cancer survivors avoid soy milk? I'm an 11-year survivor and I love soy milk in my coffee.

Janet, Somerville, Massachusetts 

A: It is not necessary for breast cancer survivors to avoid all types of soy foods. Research suggests that survivors with an estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer limit their consumption of soy foods, especially the more concentrated forms. Avoid foods made from soy protein powder, soy protein isolate, isolated soy protein (read the ingredient list to look for these). These forms of soy are often found in nutrition bars, soy protein powder, many high protein breads and cereals and vegetarian "meat-less" options, such as certain brands of veggie burgers or soy hot dogs.

Natural soy foods such as soy milk, edamame, tempeh, miso, and tofu can be safely consumed a few times a week (2-3 servings/week is the general recommendation). Foods such as soybean oil, soy sauce and soy lecithin do not contain any phytoestrogen and need not be limited or avoided.

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