THURSDAY, July 8 (HealthDay News) -- Postmenopausal women who take fish oil supplements may reduce their breast cancer risk, a new study suggests.
The study focused on the potential health benefits of 15 different so-called "specialty" supplements to see if they affect breast cancer risk, said study senior author Emily White, an epidemiologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.
"The only one that had an effect was fish oil," she said.
Fish oil supplements, made from fatty fish such as salmon, contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids.
In the study, White and her colleagues asked more than 35,000 Washington state women who were between the ages of 50 and 76 and all past menopause to answer questions about their use of "non-vitamin, non-mineral supplements." All were participants in the Vitamins and Lifestyle (VITAL) cohort study, and none had a history of breast cancer.
After six years of follow up, 880 cases of breast cancer were identified.
When the researchers looked at the women who took the fish oil supplements, they found they had a 32 percent reduced risk of breast cancer, which appeared to be restricted to invasive ductal breast cancer, the most common type.
The study was published in the July issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.
White said that, while studies examining the link between consuming fish or omega-3 fatty acids and breast cancer risk have produced inconsistent results, this is the first study that suggested a connection between fish oil supplements and reduced breast cancer risk.
Other research has suggested that the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish may be heart-healthy.
White said it's not clear how fish oil may protect against breast cancer, but it could have something to do with the anti-inflammatory
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