Higher DHA/EPA Intakes from Fish/Seafood Associated with Lower Mortality in Breast Cancer Survivors

February 15, 2011


Marine Fatty Acid Intake is Associated with Breast Cancer Prognosis
Patterson, R. et al., J. Nutrition , 141 : 201-206 , 2011
Moores UCSD Cancer Ctr., Univ. Of California, San Diego, La Jolla, Calif., USA


Some population studies have reported that higher intakes of DHA/EPA omega-3 fatty acids from marine sources are associated with a lower risk of developing breast cancer. Unlike many previous studies, the present research was conducted on women who had already been diagnosed  and treated for early stage breast cancer. This study evaluated dietary intakes (including DHA/EPA from fish/seafood) by repeated 24-hour recalls and Nutrition Data System programming. The average age of the 3081 women was 57 years (60 % were being treated with  tamoxifen). The medium follow-up period was 7.3 years.

A total of 10.2 % of the women died during the study period (83 % of them died from breast cancer). As the median intake of (DHA plus EPA) increased from a low of 18, to 73 , and then to 365 mg/day, the all-cause mortality rates amongst the women decreased by 25 % and then by 41 % relative to the first group having the lowest intakes of DHA/EPA from fish/seafood.  The authors concluded that consuming DHA/EPA from marine foods are associated with a reduction in breast cancer events and all-cause mortality amongst breast cancer survivors. 

Dr. Holub's Comments:

It should be pointed out that intakes of DHA/EPA of 365 mg/day are almost 3-times that of the average women living in North America (who average approx. one serving of fish/week) but still well below typical intakes amongst Japanese women. The mechanisms by which DHA/EPA appear to mediate their beneficial effects include their anti-inflammatory effects and their ability to suppress the production of certain eicosanoids (derived from the omega-6 fatty acid known as arachidonic acid) which express proliferative activity.

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