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Risks and Benefits of Phytoestrogens

Some studies suggest that, unlike estrogen, phytoestrogens do not appear to increase the risk of breast or uterine cancer. This suggests that they may act more like SERMS (selective estrogen receptor modulators, such as raloxifene and tamoxifen) than actual estrogens. However, in other studies, high isoflavone levels have been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer.
Clearly, additional research is needed to further evaluate the effects of phytoestrogens before any judgments regarding their safety and usefulness can be made.

Final Thoughts

Based on information available at this time, it is reasonable to make the following conclusions concerning phytoestrogens and bone health in postmenopausal women:
  • Due to concerns about safety and a lack of evidence, supplementation with synthetic isoflavones (ipriflavone) is not recommended.


  • Moderate amounts of foods containing phytoestrogens can be included in the diet.


  • Postmenopausal women are encouraged to discuss their phytoestrogen consumption with their physicians.


  • Available evidence concerning phytoestrogens and bone health is conflicting and incomplete. Research is currently underway to help clarify the health effects of these compounds.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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