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September 11, 2015

"That means there will be a number of women out there who will become menopausal, and begin to take phytoestrogens in supplement form," he said. "The majority of those come from soy. So our concern was, what if a woman becomes menopausal which means her estrogen levels are going to be low, she has estrogen-dependent breast cancer and doesn't even know it. And now she's consuming phytoestrogens.

"Physicians would never recommend you be on hormone replacement therapy if you had estrogen-dependent cancer. From a toxicology standpoint, it would that be a bad thing if you were consuming these phytoestrogens in high enough doses. It could be really dangerous."

A problem is that people believe that natural or plant-derived compounds are automatically safe which is not necessarily always true, he said. Also, consuming a compound in its pure form as a supplement in high doses may not be healthy.

"If we were getting a hormone from an animal, you wouldn't see people do that," he said. "The only difference is that this is a plant-derived compound, so they feel it is safe when that may not be so."

Yet, Allred added, scientists are finding that at least some of these compounds are doing positive things to prevent colon cancer.

"So there's going to be places that it's good - just as we've seen with estradiol," he noted. "There are going to be some disease states that it is quite good for and some disease states that you need to be mindful of."

Still, the compound's potential as a weapon against colon cancer has the researchers "pretty excited about that."

"We're seeing very interesting information as far as tumor formation and the ability of phytoestrogens to prevent colon cancer formation. So any other new, natural phytoestrogen that we are able to identify and relate to the diet, that would be the model we'd bring it in to," Allred said of possible future studies on "trig."

He said a hope would be to develop a drug that could treat colon tissue without getting into the entire body, thus exploiting the compound's mechanism to protect again cancer formation without producing other estrogenic effects.

"It's really important for us to come up with strategies that we can have the benefits in the colon without the risks associated with (estrogenic compounds)," Allred said.

Source: Texas A&M AgriLife Communications