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Menopause Health Center

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Soy Preparations Not the Holy Grail For Controlling Hot Flashes

Soy No Better Than Placebo for Menopausal Symptoms, Researchers Find


Many women, particularly those who have a family history of breast cancer, or who have had breast cancer, seek alternatives to estrogen replacement therapy as a way to control menopausal symptoms because they have concerns that it may promote the disease.

Scott M. Eisenkop, MD, says this interest in plant estrogens grew from a sort of "antimedicine" element of society and through media emphasis on natural estrogen. He says the concern that estrogens may cause breast and other cancers added to soy estrogen's popularity, even though this thinking is controversial. "It's probably more beneficial to give it [estrogen] than not to give it," he tells WebMD.

However, for the woman who does not wish to take estrogens, Loprinzi says there are some alternatives. "Vitamin E works a tiny bit, decreasing about one hot flash per person per day, clonidine cuts hot flashes 20% more than does a placebo, but has side effects such as light-headedness and constipation, and megestrol acetate will decrease hot flashes by about 80%," he says. Currently, Loprinzi is conducting a trial to see if some of the newer antidepressants work and will present this information at an oncology conference in May.

Because soy preparations are readily available in health, drug, and grocery stores, Sondheimer says if a patient wishes to see if it will help her symptoms, it's not inappropriate to prescribe it, "[as long as] the patient understands clearly that it has not been shown to be better than a placebo."

Vital Information:

  • Soy contains phytoestrogens, which are similar to human estrogen. There is much speculation about the benefits of soy in controlling symptoms of menopause.
  • New research shows that taking soy supplements does not seem to reduce hot flashes among menopausal women, but other symptoms were not examined.
  • For women seeking relief from hot flashes, alternatives to estrogen include vitamin E, clonidine, and megestrol acetate.
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