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How to Reduce the Risk of Breast Cancer by Consuming Oily Fish


Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers among women. There are many factors contributing to the development of this much feared disease and diet is a very important one. A change in diet can do a great deal to prevent, and sometimes even treat, breast cancer. Omega-3 fatty acids – found in some freshwater fish and marine life – can play an important role. Scientific studies indicate that their regular intake can lower your risk of breast cancer by up to 14% by consuming two portions of oily fish every week. Find out what you can do to protect yourself.

Research on diet and breast cancer

A group of Chinese scientists compared data from different previously published studies that looked at the association between intake of fish and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (also known as n-3 PUFA) and the risk of breast cancer. 26 publications, examining 20,905 cases of breast cancer among 883,585 participants, were included in their meta-analysis. The results were published in 2013 in The British Medical Journal (BMJ).

The researchers concluded that higher consumptions of omega-3 from fish lowered the risk of breast cancer in the studied population. The participants were taking a combination of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), both an important types of omega-3 fats. For every 100 milligrams of omega-3 per day, the risk went down by 5%. The risk could be reduced by up to 14%, which presents a significant reduction that is attributed to one specific dietary habit.

The study provided support for the use of high-quality fish oil by women wishing to reduce their risk of breast cancer.

What should you eat?

We hear a lot about omega-3 and omega-6 fats. But the world of fatty acids is a complicated one. And when you try to establish what the best way to meet your daily requirements is, things can become even trickier. So here’s a short summary of the topic that might help clear up things a little bit.

Omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated (long-chain) fats are considered essential for the functioning of your body. They build cells and support your brain and nervous system. Since the body can’t make them, they need to be supplied with food or alternatively, in the form of supplements. However, certain things need to be considered when you’re working out your best cancer-prevention diet:

The ratio of omega-6 to omega-3

To be healthy, you need a ratio of 1:1 omega-6 to omega-3. Nowadays, the ratio is 15:1 in favor of omega-6 fatty acids. The problem is that too much omega-6 and not enough omega-3 can make you sick. Omega-6 acids act pro-inflammatory, and omega-3 are anti-inflammatory, so when the balance is disturbed, different chronic conditions can develop, including cancer, heart disease and autoimmune disease.


People in the developed world are often deficient in omega-3 acids. We consume too many sources of omega-6 (different processed vegetable oils, for example, soybean oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil and corn oil), while we ignore fish rich in omega-3. So, the first thing you should do is reduce your omega-6 consumption.

Sources of omega-3

Omega-3 can be obtained from plants and different cold-water fish and marine life. Unfortunately for vegetarians and vegans, fish are a far superior source of omega-3.

Fatty fish contain both EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). DHA is extremely important for you and has been credited for bringing you the benefits of consuming omega-3

When it comes to plant sources, such as flax seed oil, chia seeds and walnuts, they contain only ALA (alpha-linoleic acid), which are shorter chain omega-3. Under the right circumstances, ALA can convert into other omega-3 acids, but the conversion is poor and it becomes even more challenging in people who are already deficient in certain nutrients.

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