Fall 2010

Fish oil supplements may help reduce breast cancer risk

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Fish oil and fish oil supplements have long been touted as good for overall health. Now, researchers at the Hutchinson Center have found a possible link to significant reductions in breast cancer risk.

Researchers found that regular use of fish oil supplements, which contain high levels of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, is associated with a 32 percent reduction in breast cancer risk.

The research, led by Dr. Emily White and funded by the National Cancer Institute, adds to the growing evidence that fish oil supplements may play a role in preventing chronic disease.

Fish oil linked to possible breast cancer risk reduction
The study asked 35,016 postmenopausal women who did not have a history of breast cancer to complete a 24-page questionnaire about their use of nonvitamin, nonmineral “specialty” supplements.

After six years of follow-up, 880 cases of breast cancer were identified. 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 reduction.

Because studies of dietary intake of fish or omega-3 fatty acids have been inconsistent, White cautioned against gleaning any recommendations from the results of one study.

“It may be that the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil supplements are higher than most people would typically get from their diet,” White said. “Without confirming studies specifically addressing this, we should not draw any conclusions about a causal relationship.”

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