Omega-3 fatty acids for breast cancer prevention and survivorship.Breast Cancer Res 2015; 17:62BC
Women with evidence of high intake ratios of the marine omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) relative to the omega-6 arachidonic acid have been found to have a reduced risk of breast cancer compared with those with low ratios in some but not all case-control and cohort studies. If increasing EPA and DHA relative to arachidonic acid is effective in reducing breast cancer risk, likely mechanisms include reduction in proinflammatory lipid derivatives, inhibition of nuclear factor-κB-induced cytokine production, and decreased growth factor receptor signaling as a result of alteration in membrane lipid rafts. Primary prevention trials with either risk biomarkers or cancer incidence as endpoints are underway but final results of these trials are currently unavailable. EPA and DHA supplementation is also being explored in an effort to help prevent or alleviate common problems after a breast cancer diagnosis, including cardiac and cognitive dysfunction and chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy. The insulin-sensitizing and anabolic properties of EPA and DHA also suggest supplementation studies to determine whether these omega-3 fatty acids might reduce chemotherapy-associated loss of muscle mass and weight gain. We will briefly review relevant omega-3 fatty acid metabolism, and early investigations in breast cancer prevention and survivorship.