Omega-3s reduce cancer risk, study finds

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 27th February 2013

The Cancer Council Australia has called for more research after a Canadian study found that a lifelong diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids can hinder the growth of breast cancer tumours by 30 per cent.

The research, from Canadian university, the University of Guelph, is believed to be the first to find unequivocal evidence that omega-3s reduce cancer risk.

This study is important because it shows a link between specific foods and cancer reduction, and will hopefully lead to more specific studies in humans, says Ian Olver, CEO of the Cancer Council Australia. “There’ll have to be confirming studies, but I think it’s making a link between foods with omega-3s and reduction in cancer risk more certain.”

Measuring the links between diet and cancer is challenging, says David Ma, a professor in Guelph’s Department of Human Health and Nutritional studies, and one of the study’s authors.

Researchers needed to use modern genetic tools to address the question of nutrition.

For the study, researchers engineered a mouse that produces both omega-3 fatty acids and develops aggressive mammary tumours. Mice producing omega-3s developed only two-thirds as many tumours compared to the control mice. The tumours were also 30 per cent smaller.

Breast cancer remains the most common form of cancer in women worldwide and is the second leading cause of female cancer deaths.

“The fact that a food nutrient can have a significant effect on tumour development and growth is remarkable and has considerable implications in breast cancer prevention,” says Professor Ma.

The Cancer Council is looking forward to more research of this kind in humans, says the organisation’s CEO, Ian Olver.

“A lot of our advice about food and cancer is actually fairly general, because the large studies have only been able to talk in very general terms,” says Olver. Further research would mean the organisation would be able to give more helpful and specific dietary advice, he says.

The Cancer Council is one of three health organisations in Australia involved in a new TV campaign asking Australians to ‘Rethink Sugary Drinks’.