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Frequently Asked Questions


I have ovarian cancer. My doctor has told me not to eat any soy foods because my tumors are responsive to estrogen. Should I avoid all soy foods? Where will I get my protein?

Respectively, I do disagree with your doctor that soy foods should be eliminated because your ovarian cancer is responsive to estrogen. Soy foods are extremely complex, which is a good thing, and researchers are just starting to figure out what actions all the various components of soy foods have in the body, both individually and in concert when eaten together as a whole food.

Soy foods are filled with molecules that have anti-cancer activity, including the phytoestrogen molecules about which your doctor is concerned. In fact, one very recent research study demonstrated that the two main phytoestrogen molecules in soy foods actually helped cisplatin and taxol reduce ovarian cancer cell growth in test tubes. (Anticancer Res. 2004 Mar-Apr;24(2B):795-800. Inhibitory effect of genistein and daidzein on ovarian cancer cell growth. Gercel-Taylor C, Feitelson AK, Taylor DD.) A test tube is not a human, but that study is an indicator that those two main controversial molecules do not cause those ovarian cell lines to grow at the concentrations used.

In addition, two studies have shown significantly reduced ovarian cancer in populations that consume soy foods (1) or other phytoestrogens (2) on a regular basis.

(1) Nutr Cancer. 2004;49(2):125-30. Soy and isoflavone intake are associated with reduced risk of ovarian cancer in southeast china. Zhang M, Xie X, Lee AH, Binns CW.

(2) J Nutr. 2003 Jun;133(6):1937-42. Risk of human ovarian cancer is related to dietary intake of selected nutrients, phytochemicals and food groups. McCann SE, Freudenheim JL, Marshall JR, Graham S.

If you choose to incorporate soy foods into your diet, remember that moderation is important. I would recommend a variety of traditional soy foods like those consumed in Japan and China (tofu, tempeh, soy milk, miso, edamame) in amounts that would be typical of an Asian intake of only 1-3 servings per day. If you choose to avoid soy foods and eat only other protein sources, all beans and legumes still provide protein, seafood is a very good choice (choose seafood high in omega-3 fatty acids like Alaskan salmon), and eggs (choose eggs high in omega-3 fatty acids like Eggland's Best) provide very good protein.

I hope this general info is helpful. However, I strongly recommend that you make an appointment with the Registered Dietitian at your cancer treatment facility to help you sort through your dietary options to make sure that they meet your individualized nutritional needs and goals, most particularly if you happen to be above your ideal weight.

Best wishes to you for health, healing, and hope!

Diana Dyer, MS, RD


faq posted 11/04



Back to Main QandA Page

Ovarian Cancer

Gastric Cancer Will consuming dairy foods increase my risk for ovarian cancer recurring? posted 11/02, updated 4/04, updated 3/05, 5/05
Gastric Cancer Are there any diet changes to help relieve bloating during abdominal radiation? posted 4/03
Gastric Cancer Should I avoid soy foods if I have ovarian cancer? posted 11/04


These questions and answers are intended to be of a general informative nature. Please consult with the Registered Dietitian in your cancer center or your health care provider for nutritional advice that can be individualized to your specific medical condition.

Contact Information:
Phone/Fax: 734/996-9260

P.O. Box 130221, Ann Arbor, MI  48113

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