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Omega-3 fatty acids are found in oil-rich fish like salmon, albacore tuna, mackerel, lake trout, herring, and sardines. The fish fats supply healthy omega-3 “fatty acids,” particularly eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Fish is an excellent source of protein and Vitamin D3 without the harmful saturated fat found in many other meat products.

A recent study examining breast cancer risk and omega-3 intake found a substantial risk reduction with increasing omega-3 and oil-rich fish consumption in both premenopausal and menopausal women [1]. Women who consumed more fish had lower rates of breast cancer. Women with the greatest EPA, DHA, and total omega-3 fatty acids in their red blood cell membranes from fish had a 73%, 94%, and 89% lower risk of breast cancer, respectively. Harvard researchers, along with the government’s Centers for Disease Control (CDC), estimate that 96,000 total deaths per year are due to omega-3 deficiency [2].

Medical researchers propose several mechanisms for the breast-protective effects of omega-3’s including the ability to stop estrogen-driven cancer growth, better immune system function (which can help kill and control cancer cells), and reduced inflammation [3].

I recommend a combined approach of food plus supplements. In addition to eating fish a few times per week, I take a concentrated omega-3 supplement daily with 800 milligrams of EPA and DHA to make sure I’m getting enough. The pill I take is “enteric-coated” so there is no fishy aftertaste. Enteric-coated pills breakdown after they leave your stomach. Much more research is underway on omega-3 fats and cancer, but since omega-3 fats have many proven heart, anti-inflammatory, and anti-aging skin benefits, I recommend starting now.

References:

1. Kuriki K, Hirose K, Wakai K, Matsuo K, Ito H, Suzuki T, Hiraki A, Saito T, Iwata H, Tatematsu M, Tajima K. Breast cancer risk and erythrocyte compositions of n-3 highly unsaturated fatty acids in Japanese. International Journal of Cancer 2007; 121:377-385.

2. Danaei G, Ding EL, Mozaffarian D, Taylor B, Rehm J, Murray CJ, Ezzati M. The preventable causes of death in the United States: comparative risk assessment of dietary, lifestyle, and metabolic risk factors. PLoS Medicine 2009; 6:e1000058.

3. Wendel M, Heller AR. Anticancer actions of omega-3 fatty acids – current state and future perspectives. Anticancer Agents in Medicinal Chemistry 2009; 9:457-470.

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