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Fish Consumption Reduces Cancer Risk

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Even small amounts of fish can reduce risks for colorectal and other cancers, according to researchers.

“There was a consistent pattern of protection against the risk of digestive tract cancers,” report researchers led by Dr. Esteve Fernandez of the University of Barcelona, Spain. The findings are published in the July issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Numerous studies have indicated that high dietary consumption of fish is protective against cardiovascular disease. But Fernandez and colleagues say that “less attention… has been paid to the role of fish consumption in cancer risk.”

Addressing this issue, the researchers compared the fish consumption of over 10,000 hospitalized Italian cancer patients with that of nearly 8,000 patients without cancer. Subjects were divided into three groups — those who consumed less than one serving of fish per week, those consuming about one serving per week, and those eating two or more servings per week.

The investigators found that subjects in the ‘2 or more servings’ group had a much lower risk for specific cancers compared with those who avoided fish. Rates of esophageal, stomach, colon, rectum, and pancreatic cancers were between 30% to 50% lower among fish ‘lovers’ than in individuals with little fish in their diet. High fish consumption was also associated with lower risks for cancers of the larynx (30% lower risk), endometrial cancer (20% lower), and ovarian cancer (30% lower). Fish consumption appeared to have no effect on the risk for lymphoma or cancers of the breast, liver, gallbladder, bladder, kidney, or thyroid.

The authors caution that high fish consumption may simply be a ‘marker’ for healthy diets and lifestyles that reduce cancer risks. On the other hand, they speculate that high levels of ‘fatty acids’ found in fish and fish oil may help reduce cancer risks. Laboratory studies have suggested that these compounds inhibit the growth of cancer cells.

Dr. Chris Rosenbloom, a spokesperson with the American Dietetic Association, believes that high fish intake can improve health in a variety of ways. In an interview with Reuters Health, she explained that “fish consumption is associated with a lower risk for cardiovascular disease. It’s also a lean source of protein, very low in saturated fats and total fat, and a great substitute for higher-fat animal foods.”

SOURCE: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 1999;70:85-90.

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