Could Fish Oil Help Fight Breast Cancer?
By: Nicole Service July 2010
A new study suggests that fish oil supplements could reduce the risk of
breast cancer in postmenopausal women.
The study by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle looked
at the benefit of 15 different supplements and what effect, if any, they
had on breast cancer. Researchers discovered that only fish oil had an
effect. The study was published in the July issue of Cancer Epidemiology,
Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for
Researchers questioned about 35,000 Washington State women who were between
the ages of 50 and 76, had no history of breast cancer and who were
participants in the Vitamins and Lifestyle (VITAL) cohort study.
Between 2000 and 2002, researchers asked the women about their current
versus past use of specialty supplements as well as about the frequency of
their use. After six-years of follow up, they found that women who
regularly used fish oil supplements had a 32 percent reduced risk of
developing the most common form of breast cancer. Of the total number of
women in the study, 880 developed the disease.
Several researchers suggest that omega-3 fatty acid, which is abundant in
fish oil, has many advantages. Fish oil and omega-3 fatty acid have already
been proven to lower the risk of death and heart attack in people with have
heart disease. Fish oil is also used to treat people with high levels of
the blood fat known as triglyceride, and has been shown to have a
beneficial effect on the healthy HDL cholesterol levels.
Researchers said it is still unclear just how fish oil protects against
breast cancer, but they believe it has to do with the supplement's
Researchers, however, caution against women substituting fish oil for their
breast cancer prevention or treatment. One big problem is researchers
couldn't quantify just how much fish oil the woman consumed.
Senior author, Emily White, said most women used the fish oil supplement up
to seven days a week, but they didn't know how much was used. The study was
"observational" only, and not a randomized trial that compared the use of
fish oil with a group not using fish oil and the effect on cancer rates.
Critics also cautioned that the lower breast cancer risk among women taking
fish oil supplements could be due to chance and more research is still
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