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Omega-3 Potential Cure for Skin Cancer?

Past studies have shown that taking Omega-3 fatty acids, or commonly known as fish oil, have numerous health benefits such as preventing cardiovascular disease, reducing cholesterol, improving mental health by combating depression and ADHD, reducing plaque buildup and blood blots and arteries, and preventing skin acne and wrinkles. As if these benefits weren't already impressive enough, we may soon add preventing oral and skin cancers to that list.

New evidence has recently been published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition by a research team from The University of Manchester in the United Kingdom demonstrating how taking omega-3 supplements may help to protect against skin cancer.

Researchers found that taking a regular dose of omega-3 fatty acids boosted skin immunity to the sun by lowering immunosuppression or sunlight-induced suppression of the immune system. Thus, our bodies are able to fight skin cancer and infection more effectively.

Researchers analyzed the effects of omega-3 fatty acids on a group of 79 healthy volunteers. The volunteers took a daily four-gram dose of omega-3 and then were exposed to either 8, 15, or 30 minutes of summer midday sun from a special light machine. This supplemented group was then compared to a second placebo group.

Immunosuppression was 50 percent in lower in the participants who took the omega-3 supplement and were exposed to 8 and 15 minutes of sun compared to placebo taking participants.

"This study adds to the evidence that omega-3 is a potential nutrient to protect against skin cancer... they suggest that a continuous low level of chemoprevention from taking omega-3 could reduce the risk of skin cancer over an individual's lifetime."
– Dr. Lesley Rhodes, lead study author

Another group of UK researches from Queen Mary, University of London, grew lab cultures of several different skin lines – malignant oral and skin cancers, pre-malignant cells, and normal skin and oral cells. When researchers carried out in vitro tests by adding fatty acids into the cell cultures, results showed that omega-3 fatty acids induced cell death in malignant and pre-malignant cells while not affecting normal cells.

"We found that the omega-3 fatty acid selectively inhibited the growth of the malignant and pre-malignant cells at doses which did not affect the normal cells."
– Prof. Kenneth Parkinson

Unfortunately, our bodies cannot synthesize omega-3 and most of us don’t get enough of it in our diets. So, it's a good idea to take a supplement. Nutrition experts recommend a daily intake of 1,200 to 2,400 mg (combined DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids).

Here are some foods that contain high levels of omega-3

  • Salmon
  • Walnuts
  • Ground flax seeds
  • Sardines
  • Beef (from grass-fed cows)
  • Soybeans
  • Halibut
  • Scallops
  • Shrimp
  • Tofu

We hope to hear more on this topic soon!