Why fish-derived omega-3 is best for preventing breast cancer

When it comes to breast cancer prevention, studies have shown that increasing the intake of omega-3 fatty acids can help. New research, however, indicates that certain types of omega-3 may be more effective than others.

Scientists at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, have revealed that omega-3 fatty acids derived from fish oil may be around eight times more effective for halting the development of aggressive breast cancer tumors than those from plant-based sources.

Study co-author Prof. David Ma, who currently works in the Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences at the University of Guelph, and colleagues recently reported their findings in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.

One of the most aggressive types of breast cancer is HER2-positive breast cancer, wherein breast tumors contain increased levels of the human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) protein, which promotes the growth of breast cancer cells.

Around 25 percent of breast cancers are HER2-positive.

Previous research has found that omega-3 fatty acids may stave off breast cancer development, but are certain types of omega-3 more effective than others? Prof. Ma and colleagues wanted to find out.

There are two types of omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil: one is eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and the other is docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The third type of omega-3 is the plant-based a-linolenic acid (ALA), which is found in soy, canola oil, and flaxseed.

For their study, Prof. Ma and colleagues compared the effects of these three types of omega-3 on breast tumor development in mice that were bred to develop HER2-positive breast cancer.

“This study is the first to compare the cancer-fighting potency of plant- versus marine-derived omega-3s on breast tumor development,” says Prof. Ma. “There is evidence that both omega-3s from plants and marine sources are protective against cancer and we wanted to determine which form is more effective.”

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