Omega-3 fatty acids (FAs) are associated with a reduced risk of prostate, breast and colon cancers. There is evidence that omega-3 fatty acids are anti-angiogenic, anti-inflammatory, anti-apoptotic and anti-proliferative. This article is a review of the ways in which omega-3 fatty acids can reduce cancer risk.
Angiogensis is the growth of new blood vessels. Angiogenesis is necessary for tumors to grow beyond the size of 1 mm in diameter. Anti-angiogenesis shows promise of being useful in the treatment of cancer. Inhibitors of angiogenesis are found in food (zinc, polyphenols in green tea and omega-3 fatty acids of oily fish.)
Omega-3 and omega-6 FAs are essential and must be consumed by humans. Omega-6 FA is eaten as linoleic acid and arachidonic acid in meats and vegetable oils (such as corn oil, safflower oil and soy oil.) Omega-3 is consumed, primarily in fish, as EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). Omega-3 and omega-6 FAs are used to produce eicosanoids, which are used to signal the immune system. The eicosanoids produced by omega-6 are inflammatory and promote angiogenesis. The eicosanoids from omega-3 are anti-inflammatory and do not promote angiogenesis.
Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is a chemical produced at increased levels in cancer and which increases angiogenesis. One study showed that the Mediterranean diet, high in omega-3 FA, given to volunteers for 6 weeks increases the patients omega-3:omega-6 ratios and decreased blood levels of VEGF.
COX-2 is an inflammatory enzyme which is increased in most human cancers. Two groups of rats were fed either a corn oil diet (high in omega-6) or a flaxseed oil diet (high in omega-3.) Rates of cancer were decreased in the flaxseed oil fed group and they had significantly lower levels of COX-2.
CONCLUSION: Omega-3 fatty acids in oily fish contain EPA and DHA, which are anti-angiogenic, preventing cancer growth.
Read about other natural anti-angiogenesis treatments for tumors.
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