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Monday 24th October 2016

Soy gives no stomach cancer protection

10th January 2012

Isoflavones, compounds that bear a superficial resemblance to oestrogen and which are thought to reduce people's risk of cancer, do not seem to reduce people's risk of stomach cancer, according to a recent Japanese study.


The researchers wanted to try to narrow down the range of beneficial effects that soy isoflavones might have on people's health.

Stomach cancers were once a leading cause of death.

Khaldoun Almhanna, a medical oncologist at the Tampa Moffitt Cancer Centre in the US, who was not involved in the study, said that one of the reasons why stomach cancer rates had declined was that people had refrigerators.

He said that the sodium-based preservatives which people used before refrigerators became widely available were responsible for stomach cancers.

Although sodium-based preservatives are no longer as widely used as before, getting too much salt can still put people at risk of getting stomach cancer.

For the study, the researchers examined statistics on 85,000 people, all of whom had answered questions regarding soy in their diet.

The researchers then followed up with those people, and discovered that about 1,250 had gone on to develop stomach cancer.

Statistically, there was no difference between the people who had developed stomach cancer and the people who had not, in terms of how much soy they ate.

But there were a few differences of note among women who got a lot of isoflavones.

Women who took hormone therapy and ate a lot of isoflavones actually had an increased stomach cancer risk.

But women who took hormone therapy were also more likely to use tobacco, drink alcohol, and to have congenital risk factors for stomach cancer.

The questionnaire itself was limited, since by its very nature it did not include information about other risk factors for stomach cancer, such as Helicobacter pylori infection, common among people of East Asian descent.

Richard Peek, a nutrition specialist who was not involved in the study, of Vanderbilt University Medical Centre in the US, said that researchers supposed there might be a link between stomach cancer and oestrogen-like compounds simply because women were much less likely to get the disease.

He said that other studies on oestrogen activity in mice tended to show that the hormone had a protective effect against the cancer.

Every year, tens of thousands of people worldwide are diagnosed with stomach cancer.

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