Do dietary phytoestrogens influence susceptibility to hormone-dependent cancer by disrupting the metabolism of endogenous oestrogens?

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Phytoestrogens are natural constituents of our diets that have been suggested to protect against hormone-dependent breast cancer. Some of the diverse effects of these compounds may be attributed to ligand-dependent differences in their interaction with oestrogen receptor sub-classes. However, phytoestrogens can also inhibit enzymes that are involved in the generation and removal of endogenous steroid hormones. Among the most potent effects of dietary phytoestrogens is their ability to inhibit the sulphotransferases that sulphate both oestrogenic steroids and a variety of environmental chemicals, including dietary pro-carcinogens. Circulating steroid sulphates are thought to be the major source of oestradiol in post-menopausal breast tumours and sulphation is a key step in the activation of some dietary pro-carcinogens. Hence the inhibition of sulphotransferases by dietary phytoestrogens may have complex effects upon human susceptibility to breast cancer.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)209-16
Number of pages8
JournalBiochemical Society Transactions
Issue numberPt 2
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2001


  • breast cancer, sulphotransferase, sulphatase, flavonoids