According to an article recently published in the *Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA),*dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids does not protect against the development of cancer.
The American Cancer Society estimates that approximately one out of every two men and one out of every three women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetime. Due to these statistics, research has focused on identifying possible environmental variables, including diet, which may be associated with either an increased or decreased risk in the development of cancer; this information may allow individuals to appropriately alter lifestyle choices.
It has been suggested that omega-3 fatty acids in the diet may provide a protective benefit against the development of some cancers. As a result, several dietary supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids have been produced, and individuals have increased their consumption of fish. However, there has been no conclusive evidence of the link between omega-3 fatty acids and the reduction in cancer risk.
Researchers from several medical institutions recently reviewed data from clinical trials evaluating the relationship between omega-3 fatty acids and the risk of cancer. Data was retrieved from results published between 1966 and 2005. The researchers compared cancer incidence between individuals who had a high dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids to those with a low intake. In addition, the researchers evaluated different dietary sources of omega-3 fatty acids; these include diets high in fish, food with high concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids, and omega-3 fatty acid supplements.
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The trials included more than 700,000 participants, seven countries, and evaluated 11 different types of cancers. Overall, there was no significant difference in the rates of different types of cancers between individuals who consumed large quantities of omega-3 fatty acids and those who consumed low quantities. Furthermore, the source of omega-3 fatty acids was not associated with differences in the rates of cancer.
The researchers concluded that it does not appear that consumption of dietary omega-3 fatty acids reduces the risk of developing cancer. However, they caution that further study is required to reach a definitive conclusion.
Reference: MacLean C, Newberry S, Mojica W, et al. Effects of Omega-3 Fatty Acids on Cancer Risk. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2006; 295:403-415.
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