MAR 06, 2016 05:00 AM PST

Omega-3s may lower breast cancer risk for obese women

Omega-3 fatty acids fight inflammation, which may explain why they seems to lower the risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women who are obese.
 
Obesity is a major breast cancer risk factor in postmenopausal women, and scientists believe increased inflammation is an important underlying cause.

“Omega-3 fatty acids have an anti-inflammatory effect, so that’s one of the reasons why we suspected it may be particularly effective in obese women,” says Andrea Manni, professor and division chief of endocrinology, diabetes, and metabolism at Penn State College of Medicine.

Some epidemiological data supports the idea that omega-3s protect against breast cancer, but the findings have been inconsistent. Data from normal-weight women may have obscured the results, researchers say. These women have less inflammation than heavier women, and are therefore less likely to benefit from anti-inflammatory omega-3s.

To tease apart the effects, researchers looked at the influence of prescription omega-3 supplementation on breast density in different weight women. Breast density is a well-established biomarker for breast cancer risk, and may be an independent risk factor, as well. They report their results online in Cancer Prevention Research.

“The higher the breast density, the more likely the woman will develop breast cancer,” Manni says.

Published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research, the study included 266 healthy postmenopausal women with high breast density detected by routine mammograms. The women either received no treatment, the antiestrogen drug Raloxifene, the prescription omega-3 drug Lovaza, or a combination of the two drugs.

At the conclusion of the two-year study, the researchers found that increasing levels of omega-3 in the blood were associated with reduced breast density—but only in women with a body mass index above 29, bordering on obesity.

Although Lovaza contains both of the fatty acids DHA—375 milligrams—and EPA—465 milligrams, only DHA blood levels were associated with breast density reduction. The researchers plan to test the effect of DHA alone in obese subjects, potentially in combination with weight loss, in a future trial.

“The finding supports the idea that omega-3s, and specifically DHA, are preferentially protective in obese postmenopausal women,” Manni says. “This represents an example of a personalized approach to breast cancer prevention.”

These findings may help to support future research looking at the direct effect of omega-3 supplementation on breast cancer incidence in obese women. Further, with obesity-related cancers on the rise, the findings could have implications beyond breast cancer.

The researchers also made a secondary discovery. Lovaza is an omega-3 drug FDA-approved for the treatment of severe high triglycerides at the dose of 4 milligrams daily. In the current study, the combination of Lovaza and a half recommended dose of Raloxifene at 30 milligrams, was superior to the individual treatments in reducing triglycerides and LDL (“bad”  cholesterol) and increasing HDL (good cholesterol).

Other researchers from Penn State and from Emory University and Colorado State University are coauthors of the study. Susan G. Komen for the Cure and Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute funded the work.

Source: Penn State

This article was originally published on futurity.org.
About the Author
  • Futurity features the latest discoveries by scientists at top research universities in the US, UK, Canada, Europe, Asia, and Australia. The nonprofit site, which launched in 2009, is supported solely by its university partners (listed below) in an effort to share research news directly with the public.
You May Also Like
SEP 15, 2018
Cancer
SEP 15, 2018
Undescended testicles could lead to testicular cancer and infertility in adult males
An undescended testis (cryptorchidism) is a condition in which one of the testes or both have not descended into the right position in the scrotum at birth and either stay at the abdomen or d...
SEP 26, 2018
Cancer
SEP 26, 2018
Rare Cancer the Focus of Mesothelioma Awareness Day
More than 2,500 Americans are diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer each year. The cancer is rare but very serious - most patients diagnosed with the disease live just a short 12 to 21 months....
OCT 04, 2018
Genetics & Genomics
OCT 04, 2018
Similar Processes Drive the Development of Lung and Prostate Cancers
Small cell cancers often have poor prognoses....
OCT 05, 2018
Cancer
OCT 05, 2018
FDA approves a new drug for an advanced type of skin cancer
As cancer is one of the most challenging diseases in our world, many efforts have been put into researching new ways for treatment to find new drugs that could help more patients worldwide. A...
NOV 02, 2018
Cell & Molecular Biology
NOV 02, 2018
Natural Molecule Enables Obese Mice to Shed Weight
A molecule that has been a focus of cancer research has been found to be a significant regulator of metabolism....
DEC 03, 2018
Cancer
DEC 03, 2018
Using bubbly nano-particles for chemotherapy delivery
We have all heard about the harsh side effects of chemotherapy that could be so difficult leading to stopping treatment. The reason behind those side effects is that chemotherapy drugs do tar...
Loading Comments...