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Omega 3, omega 6 fatty acids linked to breast cancer risk

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By David Liu, PHD

Wednesday Aug 22, 2012 (foodconsumer.org) -- A new study in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention suggests that high intake of omega 6 polyunsaturated fat or fatty acids may increase risk of developing breast cancer in both obese and lean premenopausal women while increased intake of omega 3 fat or fatty acids may reduce the risk in women with obesity.

The study led by Véronique Chajès of International Agency for Research on Cancer, Lyon, France and colleagues found increased intake of omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids was associated with 92 percent increased risk of breast cancer in premenopausal Mexican women while increased intake of omega 3 fatty acids was associated with 42 percent reduced risk in women with obesity.

According to the authors, the inverse association between intake of omega 3 fatty acids and risk of breast cancer has been observed in prior research.  But the current study was considered the first of its kind to estabolish the association among Mexican women.

In the study, 1,000 incident breast cancer cases and 1074 controls macthed to cases by age, health care system and region.

Overall, no significant association between intake of omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and breast cancer risk although eating omega 3 may help prevent breast cancer in women suffering obesity, and eating omega 6 fatty acids may increase the risk of breast cancer in premenopausal women.

High intake of omega 3 fatty acids was not associated with reduced risk of breast cancer among women with normal body weight or overweight women.

Obesity is defined as having an body mass index of 30 kg/m2, overwieght as having an body mass index of 25 to 29.9 kg/m2 and normal body weight as having a BMI between 18.5 and 25 kg/m2.

The researchers concluded "Obesity status may affect the association between ω-3 PUFA intake and breast cancer risk. The underlying mechanisms may be related to decreased inflammation and improved adipokin and estrogen levels induced by ω-3 PUFA (omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids) in adipose tissue in obese women."

They suggested "Increased intake of ω-3 PUFA (omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids) should be recommended among Mexican women in particular in obese women."

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