Fish Oil: Fighting Cancer or Promoting It?

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There are plenty of health benefits to eating fish, with one being the heart-health effects of fish oil. So it’s not surprising that researchers are studying fish oil related to cancer.  Two recent studies on the topic appear mixed but the bottom line is the same: fish is healthy.

The most recent study on fish oil and cancer, published this month, is an animal study. Researchers found, unexpectedly, that mice given high doses of fish oil got severe colitis and colon cancer.  The fish oil was enriched with DHA, one of the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil that studies point to as heart healthy.

The study was published in Cancer Research and you can read the abstract here.

But it was only in July that a study reported fish oil may reduce the risk of breast cancer. In that study, researchers were looking at several supplements women commonly take for menopause symptoms. After looking at the 10-year average use, women who consumed the most fish oil from either supplements or fish had a lower risk of breast cancer.  (black cohosh, dong quai, soy, or St. John’s wort was not linked with breast cancer risk.)

You can read this study abstract here.

At the end, both studies agreed with AICR’s recommendation for Cancer Prevention: Right now, research does not support individuals consuming supplements for cancer prevention.

More is not always better.

In general, AICR recommends people getting their cancer-protective nutrients and other compounds from food. (The American Heart Association also recommends taking in fish oil from fish, not supplements.)

For some fish recipes, visit the AICR Test Kitchen and search for fish.

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Author: Mya Nelson

Mya R. Nelson is at American Institute for Cancer Research, where she writes about the research in the field.

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