Scientists suspect that isoflavones may be able to reverse the androgenic effects of a steroid synthesized in the human body and play a role in prostate cancer prevention.
Researchers at the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) at the National Institutes of Health are looking into the role of isoflavones in countering the effects of DHEA, a steroid compound which stimulates the production of testosterone.
High testosterone levels are known to be adversely associated with prognosis in men with prostate cancer.
During a NCCAM laboratory study, cell cultures were subjected to DHEA and an increase in testosterone production was noted. However, when they were treated with red clover isoflavones, the androgenic effects of DHEA were reversed.
"Something is happening in the prostate tissue microenvironment that is illustrating a potential cancer prevention effect from this supplement," says Dr. Julia Arnold, a staff scientist at NCCAM.
However, she cautions that more research needs to be conducted before the effects of compounds and their interaction with DHEA are fully understood.