Eating Fish Reduces Risk of Cancerous Polyps in Women

For many medical diseases, early detection can drastically improve a patient’s outcome. Therefore, doctors are always working to find new ways to predict who might be at risk for certain diseases, or to prevent people from developing certain diseases. A new study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examines what sort of things help reduce the development of colon polyps in men and women.

The study was done at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, located in Nashville, Tennessee. It involved over 5,000 men and women, looking for common trends among those who did not develop colon polyps. While the study did not reveal any link between various behaviors and colon polyps in men, there was a potential risk reducing factor for women.

The study found that women who ate three or more servings of fish per week were 33 percent less likely to develop adenomatous polyps. This finding could be particularly relevant in terms of preventive cancer treatments because adenomatous polyps are likely to become cancerous. Scientists attributed the useful benefits of fish to their high levels of omega-3 fatty acids; animal testing has shown links between omega-3 and anti-cancer effects.

And while the Tennessee study does provide evidence that there is a connection between omega-3 intake and a reduction in female colon polyps, it has yet to be tested. While the Tennessee study attempted to eliminate such controlling factors as body mass index, race, age, and smoking, it has not directly studied whether simply adding omega-3 to a woman’s diet will reduce her risk of colon polyps.

When researchers perform studies trying to find a magic link between a vitamin, food, or activity that might reduce an individual’s risk of cancer, it is extremely important that the results are confirmed by another study. In addition, it is important to note that in many cases the scientists might not understand why a particular vitamin or food reduces the risk of cancer; therefore, it is important for individuals not to rely too heavily on these types of findings as a sure-fire cure or prevention method.

The best way to prevent cancer, or to diagnose it early, remains cancer screenings. For example, a 20 year study into the effectiveness of colonoscopy screenings showed that the test helped reduced the colorectal cancer death rate by over 50 percent. The finding was published in The New England Journal of Medicine and was based on research done at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

Yet despite the overwhelming evidence that colonoscopy screenings drastically reduce the likelihood of deadly colorectal cancer, there is still a large population that is not getting colonoscopies. According to the Government Accountability Office, only about one-fourth of Medicare patients underwent the recommended colonoscopy screening between 2005 and 2009. Another agency found that slightly less than 60 percent of 50 to 74 year-olds who should be getting colonoscopies actually are.

So while omega-3 intake may decrease the risk of colon polyps in women, colonoscopy screenings are proven to reduce the risk of death from colorectal cancer in both men and women. Hopefully, statistics like these will help persuade more men and women to undergo colonoscopy screenings, or other forms of cancer screenings, as a way to help facilitate early diagnose and reduce the risk of cancer death.


Bakalar, Nicholas. “Prevention: Fish Helps Reduce Risk of Polyps in Women.” The New York Times. 20 February 2012.
“A Test in Time.” The New York Times. 24 February 2012.
Kreisman Law Offices has been handing Illinois medical negligence matters for individuals and families for more than 35 years in and around Chicago, Cook County, and surrounding areas, including Chicago’s Chatham, Westchester, Dolton, South Holland, Chicago Heights, Lincolnwood, and Lemont.

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