Study finds they appear to reduce gene expression linked to tumor growth
In case you need one more reason to add fish oil to your diet, on April 6, 2011, researchers from the Fox Chase Cancer Center presented breaking research showing that omega-3 fatty acids boost the effectiveness of a common breast-cancer drug, tamoxifen.
It is well known that long-term exposure to estrogen is a risk factor for women to develop breast cancer. Women with genetic risk for the cancer are often prescribed tamoxifen. The Fox Chase research, presented at the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting, shows that omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish and krill oils, reduced gene expression linked to tumor growth and spread of the cancer.
“If a tumor was being treated with tamoxifen, the addition of an omega-3 fatty acid diet seemed to make the tumor, at least at the molecular level, more benign and less aggressive and responsive to tamoxifen,” said Jose Russo, MD, director of the Breast Cancer Research Laboratory.
The study examined rats with mammary tumors. The rats were divided into four groups and given a 17 percent fish-oil diet or a 20 percent corn-oil diet, with or without tamoxifen, for eight weeks. “Omega-3 fatty acids produced a greater expression of genes related to cellular specialization, or differentiation – a sign of lower cancer severity – compared to corn oil,” according to a statement by Fox Chase.
The study is significant because fish oil boosted the expression of genes related to immune defenses against tumors. Russo says more studies are needed to fully understand the effects of fish oil on the immune system, but the study is promising for the role omega-3 fatty acids may play in preventing breast cancer and the influence of diet on breast cancer risk in women.
Kimberly Lord Stewart is an award-winning investigative food reporter, the former editorial director of Functional Ingredients magazine, and the author of Eating Between the Lines, The Supermarket Shopper’s Guide To The Truth Behind Food Labels.Complete bio.