In Asian epidemiological studies, health benefits, including reduced incidence of breast and prostate cancers, are attributed to soy food and isoflavone consumption. The recent increased intake of soy foods and supplements in the American diet has raised concerns about the possible estrogen-like effects of natural isoflavones and possible promotion or propagation of estrogen-sensitive cancers. These concerns are primarily based on in vitro and rodent data which suggest that genistein aglycone can stimulate tumor cell proliferation and growth in mice having deficient immune systems. In contrast, a recent nested case-control study and meta-analysis of numerous epidemiological studies show an inverse correlation between genistein intake and breast cancer risk. Furthermore, clinical studies in osteopenic and osteoporotic, postmenopausal women support the breast and uterine safety of purified naturally derived genistein administered for up to 3 years. In this review, we summarize the in vitro, preclinical and clinical evidence for the safety of natural genistein.

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