Online Health Articles

Fish Oil Supplements may prevent Breast Cancer

Fish Oil Supplements may prevent Breast Cancer           [print_link]

A study just completed this year by Dr.Emily White of the Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Centre in Seattle has shown that fish oil supplements may guard against some forms of breast cancer.

What is intriguing about this study is that we are not talking about actual fish in the diet but a study that involved more than 35,000 postmenopausal women who were taking a variety of supplements.

As women go through menopause they experience a wide variety of symptoms that not only include menopausal symptoms but other problems associated with aging. These women were asked on a questionnaire to list all the supplements they took and besides fish oil the list included acidophilus, black cohosh, glucosamine/chondroitin, dong quai, garlic pills, ginkgo biloba, melatonin, methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), soy and St.John’s Wort.

After six years of follow up, a total of 880 women were diagnosed with breast cancer. The researchers then analyzed the data to see if taking any of the supplements gave some protection against breast cancer.

Of all the supplements the only one that stood out was fish oil. Regular use of this supplement, which contains high levels of long chain omega-3 fatty acids known as DHA and EPA, was linked to a 32 per cent reduced risk of breast cancer. Although many brands were used the   average daily intake was 800 to 1500mg of EPA and 350 to 500mg of DHA. These findings were published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

(I mention this study by name because many health products make claims about their scientific studies but unless a study is published in a recognized peer-review journal then that study is groundless and represents only the opinion of the person who did it.)

The study showed that the fish oil supplements provided protection only against invasive ductal carcinoma, the most common type of breast cancer. The second most common type of breast cancer is called invasive lobular carcinoma and tends to be driven by hormones.

The researchers were not sure how the fish oil worked to prevent cancer but proposed the theory that these supplements may provide a partial shield against cancer through their anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation in any body part sends a signal to the brain to produce more cells in that area where the body part is injured or in need of repair. Excessive inflammation can cause excessive reproduction of cells to the point where so many cell divisions occurring provides the opportunity for genetic errors to accumulate and this leads to cancerous cells instead of normal ones. Dr.White proposed the theory that fish oil supplements may be acting as an anti-inflammatory drug and protecting against the proliferation of cancerous cells in the breast.

At the present time researchers at Harvard University are launching a major medical trial to assess omega-3 only and try and determine its long term effects.  We now have positive proof that fish oil is excellent for your brain, reduces heart attacks by approximately 20 per cent and is very effective at controlling the pain of arthritis. If this latest research can be verified taking fish oil supplements may provide an even greater bonus especially to menopausal women.