URBANA In the race to find answers about ovarian cancer, researchers now have something to cluck about. For five years, University of Illinois researchers have been using the chicken as a model to study this deadly disease and have recently discovered that a diet enriched with flaxseed decreases severity of ovarian cancer and increases survival in hens.
Flaxseed is the richest plant source of alpha-linolenic acid, one type of omega-3 fatty acid. Several studies have already shown that flaxseed inhibits the formation of colon, breast, skin and lung tumors.
For these reasons, it was logical to study how omega-3 fatty acids affect ovarian cancer as there continues to be no effective treatment at this time, said Janice Bahr, a professor emerita in the U of I Department of Animal Sciences and one of the nation's leading poultry researchers.
According to Bahr, 25,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year and 15,000 die. The incidences of death in other cancers have dropped recently, but ovarian cancer death rates have remained the same.
"The chicken is the only animal that spontaneously develops ovarian cancer on the surface of the ovaries like humans," Bahr said. "In this study, we evaluated how a flaxseed-enriched diet affected 2-year-old laying hens (hens that have ovulated as many times as a woman entering menopause)."
The results showed that hens fed a flaxseed-enriched diet for one year experienced a significant reduction in late-stage ovarian tumors.
"Most women diagnosed with ovarian cancer have a very poor prognosis because they are not diagnosed until stage 3 or 4 when the cancer has metastasized and spread to other parts of the body," Bahr said.
Hens fed the control diet had significantly more late-stage tumors that presented with fluid and metastases as compared to the hens fed a flaxseed diet. Though hens fed the flaxseed diet did not have a decreased incidence of ovarian
|Contact: Jennifer Shike|
University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences