Decreased severity of ovarian cancer and increased survival in hens fed a flaxseed-enriched diet for 1 year

Gynecol Oncol. 2010 May;117(2):341-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ygyno.2010.01.021. Epub 2010 Feb 13.


Objective: With the exception of the laying hen, no other animal model of spontaneous ovarian surface epithelial cancer replicates the human disease. Flaxseed is the richest vegetable source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are chemopreventive in breast cancer and may be important in other cancers. The objective of this study was to determine if a flaxseed-enriched diet had a chemopreventive effect on ovarian cancer in the laying hen.

Methods: White Leghorn hens were fed with 10% flaxseed-enriched or standard diet for 1 year. The incidence and severity of ovarian cancer were determined by gross pathology and histology in the two groups. General health markers were also measured. Eggs were collected and analyzed by gas chromatography to determine omega-3 fatty acid levels.

Results: A significant reduction in late stage ovarian tumors was detected in the flaxseed-fed hens. Incidence rates of ovarian cancer were not significantly different between the two groups. The results indicate that a flaxseed diet increases overall survival in the laying hen. Flaxseed-fed hens' eggs incorporated significantly more omega-3 fatty acids compared to control hens.

Conclusions: These findings show that 10% flaxseed supplementation for 1 year in the laying hen results in a significant reduction in the severity of ovarian cancer, but no change in the incidence of the disease. Hens fed flaxseed had overall better health and reduced mortality. These findings may provide the basis for a clinical trial that evaluates the efficacy of flaxseed as a chemosuppressant of ovarian cancer in women.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chickens
  • Diet
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / administration & dosage*
  • Female
  • Flax*
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / diet therapy*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / pathology
  • Random Allocation


  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3