Soy doesn't ease cancer survivors' hot flashes

April 16, 2002 in Menopause, Nutrition Topics in the News, Women's Health

Soy doesn't ease cancer survivors' hot flashes

A soy drink appears to be no better than a placebo when it comes to relieving hot flashes in postmenopausal women treated for breast cancer.

Women who have had breast cancer are discouraged from using hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to ease menopausal symptoms, because the hormones can stimulate the growth of some types of breast cancer. And chemotherapy for breast cancer can exacerbate hot flashes and night sweats.

Soy has been proposed as an alternative to HRT for treating menopausal symptoms, because it contains chemicals called phytoestrogens with estrogen-like effects.

Researchers from the Vancouver Cancer Center in British Columbia assigned 123 postmenopausal breast cancer survivors to drink either a soy drink containing 90 milligrams of phytoestrogens or a placebo rice drink every day for 12 weeks. The women kept track of the number of hot flashes they experienced for 4 weeks before treatment began, and then during the study period.

During the treatment phase of the trial, there was no difference in the number of hot flashes or hot flash score between the women who received the soy drink and those who received placebo. However, both groups reported a similar reduction in hot flashes, which the researchers believe resulted from a placebo effect.

Patients in both groups experienced mild gastrointestinal side effects, with those women receiving the soy drink experiencing more frequent and more severe side effects.

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