Possible beneficial effect of fish and fish n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in breast and colorectal cancer

Eur J Cancer Prev. 1999 Jul;8(3):213-21. doi: 10.1097/00008469-199906000-00009.


Breast and colorectal cancer are main causes of death in industrialized countries. In these cancers dietary factors appear to play beneficial or adverse roles. One of the possible beneficial factors may be fish intake or the n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids from fish, as found in epidemiological and clinical studies. In population studies, high intake of fish during many years is associated with reduced risks of breast and colorectal cancer. Prospective and case-control studies either do not show an association between fish intake and cancer risks or show reduced risks at high fish intakes. In these studies, fish consumption may have been too low or may not reflect fish consumption over a longer period. In population, case-control, and prospective studies, fish and fish n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids were not found to increase cancer risks. Clinical studies on markers of colorectal cancer indicate that fish n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids may reduce cancer risk. In several studies in which the effect of fish consumption on cancer risk was investigated, meat and meat products were positively related to cancer risk, suggesting that cancer risks might be reduced more effectively when meat and meat products in meals are replaced by fish. In conclusion, the existing knowledge suggests that an increase in the consumption of fish and fish n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in industrialized countries may contribute to lower breast and colorectal cancer risks.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / blood
  • Breast Neoplasms / blood
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / mortality
  • Breast Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / blood
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / mortality
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / blood
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid / blood
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / administration & dosage*
  • Female
  • Fishes
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid