Soy isoflavones have been documented as dietary nutrients broadly classified as “natural agents” which plays important roles in reducing the incidence of hormone-related cancers in Asian countries, and have shown inhibitory effects on cancer development and progression in vitro
and in vivo
, suggesting the cancer preventive or therapeutic activity of soy isoflavones against cancers. Emerging experimental evidence shows that isoflavones could induce cancer cell death by regulating multiple cellular signaling pathways including Akt, NF-κB, MAPK, Wnt, androgen receptor (AR), p53 and Notch signaling, all of which have been found to be deregulated in cancer cells. Therefore, homeostatic regulation of these important cellular signaling pathways by isoflavones could be useful for the activation of cell death signaling, which could result in the induction of apoptosis of both pre-cancerous and/or cancerous cells without affecting normal cells. In this article, we have attempted to summarize the current state-of-our-knowledge regarding the induction of cancer cell death pathways by isoflavones, which is believed to be mediated through the regulation of multiple cellular signaling pathways. The knowledge gained from this article will provide a comprehensive view on the molecular mechanism(s) by which soy isoflavones may exert their effects on the prevention of tumor progression and/or treatment of human malignancies, which would also aid in stimulating further in-depth mechanistic research and foster the initiation of novel clinical trials.