Health Watch -- Anti-Cancer Soup

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

The ads say that soup is good food, but can it protect you from cancer?

We know that soup seems to have healing properties - or, at least, a bowl of chicken noodle soup makes you feel better when you have a cold. But researchers at Japan's National Cancer Center have found that one kind of soup may help protect against breast cancer.

Miso soup is a broth of fermented soybean paste and seaweed. It may also have bean curd and vegetables in it. The researchers found that women who ate three or more bowls of miso a day had about a 40 percent lower risk of developing breast cancer than women who ate only one bowl a day. Doctors believe this effect is due to compounds in soy that have been shown to block growth in some tumors.

Doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say that research has shown that women whose diets are high in soy products have lower levels of circulating estrogens, which may lower their breast cancer risk.

If you want to try adding soy to your diet, you can find miso paste at health-food stores, Asian markets and some supermarkets. It will keep in your refrigerator for months, and you can use it as a flavoring in soups and sauces or as a substitute for salt.

But Dr. David Euhus, a UT Southwestern breast cancer expert, says you shouldn't go overboard and think that more miso is better. High levels of some compounds in the soup may stimulate cancer cells and have an estrogen-like effect. Moderation is the best course.