A recent study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, suggests that fish oil supplements may aid in the prevention of breast cancer among post-menopausal women with no prior history of the disease.
The first study of its kind, research was conducted among 35,000 women over a seven year period. The study found that current use of fish oil supplements was associated with a 32 percent reduced risk of breast cancer compared to non-use of the supplements. The decrease in risk was specifically associated with invasive ductal breast cancer, the most common of the seven different types of breast cancer. Furthermore, risk reduction was only seen in local cancers, rather than regional cancers, which are presumably more aggressive forms of the disease.
Omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA (found in fish oil) are unsaturated fatty acids known for their anti-inflammatory properties. They have previously been found to be beneficial to several bodily functions, such as controlling blood clotting and building cell membranes in the brain. The proposed effect of fish oil on breast cancer prevention is hypothesized to derive from its anti-inflammatory properties, as chronic inflammation has previously been linked to cancer origination and progression.
It is worth noting that this study’s respondents did not report the dose of their fish oil supplements, so if this study’s results are indeed valid, it is unclear what the effective dose of fish oil might actually have been. While significantly more research is required to validate this study’s findings before fish oil supplements can be recommended routinely as a precautionary measure against breast cancer, regular fish oil supplementation has been associated with a variety of other benefits, including cardiovascular health and improving symptoms of depression. Before starting a fish oil supplementation regimen, consult your doctor or registered dietitian, particularly because fish oil can adversely interact with certain other medications and supplements, particularly those with blood-thinning or anti-clotting effects.