Fish oil may reduce risk of breast cancer

July 8, 2010, American Association for Cancer Research

A recent report in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, adds to the growing evidence that fish oil supplements may play a role in preventing chronic disease.

Researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Wash., led by Emily White, Ph.D., a member of the public health sciences division, asked 35,016 postmenopausal women who did not have a history of breast cancer to complete a 24-page questionnaire about their use of non-vitamin, non-mineral "specialty" supplements in the Vitamins and Lifestyle (VITAL) cohort study.

After six years of follow-up, 880 cases of breast cancer were identified using the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results registry.

Regular use of supplements, which contain high levels of the omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, was linked with a 32 percent reduced risk of breast cancer. The reduction in risk appeared to be restricted to invasive ductal breast cancer, the most common type of the disease.

The use of other specialty supplements, many of which are commonly taken by women to treat symptoms of menopause, was not associated with breast cancer risk.

This research is the first to demonstrate a link between the use of fish oil supplements and a reduction in . Studies of dietary intake of fish or omega-3 fatty acids have not been consistent.

"It may be that the amount of omega-3 in fish oil supplements are higher than most people would typically get from their diet," White said.

However, White cautioned against gleaning any recommendations from the results of one study.

"Without confirming studies specifically addressing this," she said, "we should not draw any conclusions about a causal relationship."

Edward Giovannucci, M.D., Sc.D., professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health and an editorial board member of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, agreed.

"It is very rare that a single study should be used to make a broad recommendation," said Giovannucci. "Over a period of time, as the studies confirm each other, we can start to make recommendations."

Still, fish oil continues to excite many, as evidence emerges about its protective effect on cardiovascular disease and now cancer.

Harvard researchers are currently enrolling patients for the randomized Vitamin D and Omega-3 Trial (also called VITAL), which will assess the impact of fish oil supplements and vitamin D on cancer, heart disease and stroke.

The researchers plan to enroll 20,000 U.S. men aged 60 years and older and women aged 65 years and older who do not have a history of these diseases and have never taken supplements.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Single blood test screens for eight cancer types

January 18, 2018
Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center researchers developed a single blood test that screens for eight common cancer types and helps identify the location of the cancer.

Researchers find a way to 'starve' cancer

January 18, 2018
Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) have demonstrated for the first time that it is possible to starve a tumor and stop its growth with a newly discovered small compound that blocks uptake of the vital ...

How cancer metastasis happens: Researchers reveal a key mechanism

January 18, 2018
Cancer metastasis, the migration of cells from a primary tumor to form distant tumors in the body, can be triggered by a chronic leakage of DNA within tumor cells, according to a team led by Weill Cornell Medicine and Memorial ...

Modular gene enhancer promotes leukemia and regulates effectiveness of chemotherapy

January 18, 2018
Every day, billions of new blood cells are generated in the bone marrow. The gene Myc is known to play an important role in this process, and is also known to play a role in cancer. Scientists from the German Cancer Research ...

These foods may up your odds for colon cancer

January 18, 2018
(HealthDay)—Chowing down on red meat, white bread and sugar-laden drinks might increase your long-term risk of colon cancer, a new study suggests.

The pill lowers ovarian cancer risk, even for smokers

January 18, 2018
(HealthDay)—It's known that use of the birth control pill is tied to lower odds for ovarian cancer, but new research shows the benefit extends to smokers or women who are obese.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.