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Table 62: Soy and relief of menopausal symptoms

This summary table contains detailed information about research studies. Summary tables offer an informative look at the science behind many breast cancer guidelines and recommendations. However, they should be viewed with some caution. In order to read and interpret research tables successfully, it is important to understand some key concepts. Learn how to read a research table.

Introduction: Although menopausal hormone therapy (postmenopausal hormones) containing estrogen and progestin may ease menopausal symptoms, long-term use increases the risk of breast cancer (see Table 8) [1]. For this reason, many women seek other ways to reduce hot flashes and other symptoms.

Soy foods and soy supplements have been suggested as ways to relieve menopausal symptoms. Findings from randomized controlled trials are mixed. Some show soy can reduce hot flashes, while others do not.

Learn more about soy.

 Komen Perspectives  

Read our perspective on soy and breast cancer recurrence and survival (February 2010).* 

Learn about the strengths and weaknesses of different types of studies.

Study selection criteria: Randomized controlled trials with at least 60 participants and meta-analyses.

Table note: Relative risk above 1 indicates increased risk. Relative risk below 1 indicates decreased risk. 

Study 

Study Population
(number of participants)
 

Treatment Duration 

Type of Soy 

Soy Reduced Hot Flashes
More Than Placebo? 
 

Randomized controlled trials 

Amato et al. [2]

406
cancer-free women

2 years

Soy tablet

No

Levis et al. [3]    

182
cancer-free women

2 years

Soy tablet

No

Quella et al. [4]

175
breast cancer survivors

4 weeks

Soy tablet

No

Van Patten et al. [5]

123
breast cancer survivors

12 weeks

Soy beverage

No

Ferrari et al. [6]

121
cancer-free women

12 weeks

 Soy tablet

Yes

Ye et al. [7]

84
cancer-free women

24 weeks

Soy capsule

Yes

Nahas et al. [8]

80
cancer-free women

10 months

Soy capsule

Yes

Faure et al. [9]

75
cancer-free women

16 weeks

Soy capsule

Yes

Lewis et al. [10]

66
cancer-free women

16 weeks

Soy flour muffin

No

Penotti et al. [11]

62
cancer-free women

6 months

Soy tablet

No

Welty et al. [12]

60
cancer-free women

8 weeks

Soy nuts

Yes

Carmignani et al. [13]

60
cancer-free women

16 weeks

Soy powder

Yes

Meta-analyses 

Bolaños et al. [14]

17 studies

12 weeks

Various

Yes

Taku et al. [15]

17 studies

6 weeks to
12 months

Various

Yes

Nelson et al. [16]

5 studies

4-6 weeks

Various

No

 

4 studies

12-16 weeks

Various

Yes

 

2 studies

6 months

Various

Yes

 
References  

  1. Rossouw JE, Anderson GL, Prentice RL, et al. for the Writing Group for the Women’s Health Initiative Investigators. Risks and benefits of estrogen plus progestin in healthy postmenopausal women: principal results From the Women's Health Initiative randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 288(3):321-33, 2002.
  2. Amato P, Young RL, Steinberg FM, et al. Effect of soy isoflavone supplementation on menopausal quality of life. Menopause. 20(4):443-7, 2013.
  3. Levis S, Strickman-Stein N, Ganjei-Azar P, Xu P, Doerge DR, Krischer J. Soy isoflavones in the prevention of menopausal bone loss and menopausal symptoms: a randomized, double-blind trial. Arch Intern Med. 171(15):1363-9, 2011.
  4. Quella SK, Loprinzi CL, Barton DL, et al. Evaluation of soy phytoestrogens for the treatment of hot flashes in breast cancer survivors: A North Central Cancer Treatment Group Trial. J Clin Oncol. 18(5):1068-74, 2000.
  5. Van Patten CL, Olivotto IA, Chambers GK, et al. Effect of soy phytoestrogens on hot flashes in postmenopausal women with breast cancer: a randomized, controlled clinical trial. J Clin Oncol. 20(6):1449-55, 2002.
  6. Ferrari A. Soy extract phytoestrogens with high dose of isoflavones for menopausal symptoms. J Obstet Gynaecol Res. 35(6):1083-90, 2009.
  7. Ye YB1, Wang ZL, Zhuo SY, et al. Soy germ isoflavones improve menopausal symptoms but have no effect on blood lipids in early postmenopausal Chinese women: a randomized placebo-controlled trial. Menopause. 19(7):791-8, 2012.
  8. Nahas EAP, Nahas-Neto J, Orsatti FL, Carvalho EP, Oliveira MLCS, Dias R. Efficacy and safety of a soy isoflavone extract in postmenopausal women: a randomized, double-blind, and placebo-controlled study. Maturitas. 58(3):249-58, 2007.
  9. Faure ED, Chantre P, Mares P. Effects of a standardized soy extract on hot flushes: a multicenter, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study. Menopause. 9(5):329-34, 2002.
  10. Lewis JE, Nickell LA, Thompson LU, Szalai JP, Kiss A, Hilditch JR. A randomized controlled trial of the effect of dietary soy and flaxseed muffins on quality of life and hot flashes during menopause. Menopause. 13(4):631-42, 2006.
  11. Penotti M, Fabio E, Modena AB, Rinaldi M, Omodei U, Vigano. Effect of soy-derived isoflavones on hot flushes, endometrial thickness, and the pulsatility index of the uterine and cerebral arteries. Fertil Steril. 79(5):1112-7, 2003.
  12. Welty FK, Lee KS, Lew NS, Nasca M, Zhou JR. The association between soy nut consumption and decreased menopausal symptoms. J Womens Health (Larchmt). 16(3):361-9, 2007.
  13. Carmignani LO, Pedro AO, Costa-Paiva LH, Pinto-Neto AM. The effect of dietary soy supplementation compared to estrogen and placebo on menopausal symptoms: a randomized controlled trial. Maturitas. 67(3):262-9, 2010.
  14. Bolaños R, Del Castillo A, Francia J. Soy isoflavones versus placebo in the treatment of climacteric vasomotor symptoms: systematic review and meta-analysis. Menopause. 17(3):660-6, 2010.
  15. Taku K1, Melby MK, Kronenberg F, Kurzer MS, Messina M. Extracted or synthesized soybean isoflavones reduce menopausal hot flash frequency and severity: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Menopause. 19(7):776-90, 2012.
  16. Nelson HD, Vesco KK, Haney E, et al. Nonhormonal therapies for menopausal hot flashes: systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA. 295(17):2057-71, 2006.

Updated 05/16/14