I recently returned from a trip to Bristol Bay, Alaska to explore firsthand wild Alaskan salmon – and the healing power of its fish oil. Wild salmon fish oil contains numerous nutrients that can help further explain the powerful results discussed below. Wild Alaskan Salmon fish oil – whether eating the fish or taking a wild Alaskan fish oil supplement – naturally contains omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin D (which research has shown to have breast cancer prevention benefits as well as being a factor in survival once diagnosed), and astaxanthin (antioxidant which research has shown to have cancer preventive benefits) [AKA brands: Vital Choice and Wholemega by New Chapter].
The results of a very large epidemiological study from Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center are making headlines worldwide.
In short, the study showed that women who took fish oil regularly were 32 percent less likely to develop breast cancer over a six-year period (Brasky TM et al. 2010).
Significantly, the researchers found no associations between breast cancer rates and any other supplements that have been proposed as possible anti-cancer aids … including soy.
Fish oil shines in unprecedented epidemiological study
The Seattle team surveyed 35,016 postmenopausal women between the ages of 50 and 76, who were taking part in the Hutchinson Center’s Vitamins and Lifestyle (VITAL) study.
The goal was to compare the women’s breast health over the six year study period to their intake of non-vitamin, non-mineral “specialty” supplements.
The supplements asked about in the survey included fish oil, soy, black cohosh, gingko, and St. John’s Wort.
About one in 12 of the women said that they’d taken fish oil at some point, with most of those (83 percent) saying that they took fish oil at least four times a week, and 60 percent reporting that they took fish oil capsules daily.
The Seattle team compared the women’s supplement use to their breast health after six years, and adjusted the results to account for other potentially influential factors, including age, family medical history, and use of hormone replacement therapy.
In the end, the analysis showed that only fish oil was associated with any reduction in breast cancer risk.
And the reduction was quite steep … regular fish oil users were 32 percent less likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer within six years.
The nearly one-third reduction in breast cancer diagnoses among fish oil users came almost entirely from a reduction in common ductal tumors … there was no drop in the fish oil users’ risk of the far less frequent lobular tumors.
Invasive lobular carcinomas make up a small portion of all breast cancers. The most common type of breast cancer – ductal carcinoma – begins in the breast ducts.
Results are encouraging but require clinical verification
As with any epidemiological study, the associations that were found cannot prove that a cause-effect relationship exists between a dietary or lifestyle habit (such as taking fish oil) and the risk of a developing a disease.
Also, the researchers had no way of verifying those claims or knowing the exact doses of omega-3s each woman was getting from her particular fish oil regimen.
However, basic research in human cells and in animals suggests that it’s plausible that fish oil could reduce the risk of breast tumors and other common cancers.
The omega-3 fatty acids in fish fat tend to dampen inflammation, which plays a role in many common cancers … as well as in heart disease. And among other anti-cancer effects, omega-3s tend to promote “suicide” (apoptosis) among cancerous cells…
- Brasky TM, Lamp JW, Potter JD, Patterson RE, White E. Specialty Supplements and Breast Cancer Risk in the VITamins And Lifestyle (VITAL) Cohort. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev July 2010 19:1696-1708; doi:10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-10-0318
- Gardner A. Fish oil linked to lower breast cancer risks. Health.com, July 8, 2010. Accessed at http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/07/07/fish.oil.lower.risk/index.html
- Mayo Clinic. Invasive lobular carcinoma. March 25, 2010. Accessed at http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/invasive-lobular-carcinoma/DS01063