Endocr Relat Cancer 2001 (Jun); 8 (2): 129–134
This P, De La Rochefordiere A, Clough K, Fourquet A, Magdelenat H;
The Breast Cancer Group of the Institut Curie
Service de Chirurgie a orientation Senologique,
The current extension of the indications for adjuvant chemotherapy, which predisposes to early menopause, and the media coverage of the benefits of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) have led patients with a history of breast cancer to seek treatments for estrogen deprivation. In breast cancer survivors, most physicians avoid HRT because of concern regarding the potential promotion of growth of occult malignant cells by estrogens, due to the estrogen dependence of breast cancer. Soy phytoestrogens are being promoted as the 'natural alternative' to HRT and have been available without restrictions for several years as nutritional supplements. In this paper, data on the complex mammary effects of phytoestrogens in epidemiological studies, in in vitro studies, as well as in in vivo studies on animal carcinogenesis are reviewed. The potential benefits and risks of phytoestrogens are analyzed, and the prescription of phytoestrogens to postmenopausal women after breast cancer and the coprescription with the anti-estrogen tamoxifen are discussed. The absence of controlled trials and technical checking of extraction and titration in these preparations on 'free sale' raise a new problem in terms of public health and justify close reasoning and a cautious attitude of physicians, as well as straight information given to women, especially after breast cancer.