Fatty Fish Slim Breast Cancer Risks

Breast cancer risk reduction associated with intake of oily fish

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) You may have heard that fatty fish is good for you. Tuna, sardines and salmon contain a type of fat that helps the immune system and blood vessels. Scientists are now finding that fatty fish may help lower cancer risks.

One to two portions of oily fish a week per week was associated with a 5 percent decrease in breast cancer risks in a recent analysis of studies that involved hundreds of thousands of people.

"Learn about the vitamins in the food you eat."

The substance that has health benefits is n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (n-3 PUFA). Types of this fatty acid include EPA, DPA and DHA, which comes from fish, and ALA, found in nuts, seeds and leafy green vegetables.

Researchers in China, led by Duo Li, professor in the Department of Food Science and Nutrition at Zhejiang University University in Hangzhou, China, reviewed the links between n-3 PUFA intake and breast cancer risks.

These scientists analyzed data from 26 studies involving more than 800,000 people and over 20,000 cases of breast cancer.

Breast cancer risks were lowered only by n-3 PUFA intake from fatty fish.

ALA — the plant-based n-3 PUFA — did not have an impact on cancer risks, the study discovered.

Diets that included one or two servings of fatty fish per week resulted in a 5 percent breast cancer risk reduction.
Asian populations had the lowest risks, likely because they eat more fish than people in Western countries, according to the authors.

"As an observational study, the report can inspire further research into the predictability of using marine sourced omega-3's as a preventive measure for breast health," Deborah Gordon, MD, nutrition and preventive medicine expert, told dailyRx News. "Although observational studies cannot routinely be used to determine policy (observed associations do not necessarily hold up to randomized double blind controlled trials), the findings in this case line up squarely with other observed benefits of high omega-3 fish consumption," said Dr. Gordon, who is an integrative physician at Madrona Homeopathy in Ashland, Oregon.

"Previous research has confirmed the value of an omega-3 rich diet for other health benefits (balancing inflammation, general mood and mental health, cardiovascular health), so we can feel fairly safe in presuming from this observational study, that there might be yet one more benefit from that freshly grilled wild salmon," Dr. Gordon said.

"Higher consumption of dietary marine n-3 PUFA is associated with a lower risk of breast cancer. These findings could have public health implications with regard to prevention of breast cancer through dietary and lifestyle interventions," the authors concluded.

This study was published June 27 in the journal BMJ.

The research was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the PhD Programs Foundation of Ministry of Education of China and the National Basic Research Program of China.

No author reported a potential financial conflict of interest.

Review Date: 
June 27, 2013
Last Updated:
September 6, 2013