Soy And Cancer
The Relationship Between Soy And Cancer
Studies of the relationship between soy and cancer can make for some interesting reading. Since we have a natural fear of cancer, one of the dread diseases, we are always interested in foods which are either said to lessen the chances of getting the disease, or which should not be eaten as they may increase those chances. When you look into the relationship between soy and cancer you get arguments on both sides of the equation.
Compounds And Chemicals - We all know that soy is a very healthy and nutritious food. It provides more protein than any other plant we eat, and is chock-full of other beneficial nutrients. Where soy and cancer come into the picture is the fact that in soy there are certain compounds that could be classified as cancer fighters. One of these compounds, genistein, is known to have the capability to modify cell differentiation, in other words it tends to prevent or at least slows abnormal cell growth, and what cancer is all about is abnormal cell growth which eventually crowds out healthy cells.
There are other chemicals in soybeans which could fit into the category of cancer fighters. Phytate, a derivative of phosphorous, binds iron and calcium, and in doing so seemingly protects the intestinal tract for carcinogens. Phytosterols are another group of chemicals, which seem to have a very positive effect in the prevention of colon cancer, and have even been linked to the prevention of skin cancer.
All of this is good news of course, but what often happens, especially if these chemicals are used in experiments on rats with some measure of success, there are those who immediately, and somewhat understandably, feel that more is better. The theory is, if one eats a great deal more soy than is typically done in our culture, or better yet, if these chemicals are concentrated into supplements, the number of cancer cases should plummet.
There are been numerous case studies involving soy and cancer, and there have been enough positive results to indicate that a diet rich in soy may indeed lower the number cancer cases. One cannot go so far as to say that eating soy will definitely reduce one's chances of getting cancer, only that there seems to be a correlation. Ironically, for a long time women who were recovering from breast cancer were advised not to eat soy, and some doctors still give that advice. Studies appear to indicate that in this instance, soy is not harmful. But as is the case with many kinds of medical and nutritional studies, the jury is still out.
Another indication that eating soy may inhibit the growth of cancer cells is the fact that Asian women, who eat many times the amount of soy that American or European women eat, experience markedly lower rates of cancer, especially breast cancer. It has yet to be proven that if American women eat as much soy as does the typically Asian women, their chances of having to deal with cancer would be significantly reduced.
Positive Correlations - While the effectiveness of soy as a cancer fighter has not yet been proven to the point that we are urged to eat more of it, a number of soy and cancer correlations have been shown to have validity. Women who eat soy do seem to have a lower risk off breast cancer, eating soy apparently lowers the risk of colon cancer, and there also seems to be a relationship between soy and incidents of lung cancer.
This we do know. Soy is a very healthy and nutritious food item, and anything that tends to make us healthier, also tends to lessen our chances of acquiring certain diseases. Whether the soy and cancer relationship is a direct one or something more circuitous is something still to be determined.