CHAPEL HILL, NORTH CAROLINA. Breast cancer rates differ greatly between countries. They are 5 times higher in the United States than in Japan and twice as high in France as in neighbouring Spain. Differences in overall fat consumption in these countries have been extensively studied, but no link to breast cancer risk or incidence has been detected so far. A large team of researchers from the Netherlands, Ireland, Spain, Finland, Switzerland, Germany and the United States now report that, while overall fat consumption may not be significant, the make-up of the fats could be. As part of the large EURAMIC Study the researchers investigated the link between the content of polyunsaturated fats in adipose (fat) tissue of postmenopausal women and breast cancer incidence. A total of 291 women with breast cancer and 351 controls were included in the study which involved 5 European medical centers. The women all had samples of adipose tissue taken (from the buttocks) and analyzed to determine the concentration of the main polyunsaturated fatty acids: the omega-3 acids - alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and the omega-6 acids - linoleic acid (LA) and its metabolite arachidonic acid (AA).
MANCHESTER, UNITED KINGDOM. Men face a much more dangerous form of prostate cancer if tumor cells from the prostate gland metastasize and migrate and invade other parts of the body, such as bone marrow. New research suggests that oily fish may help prevent this process. It appears that omega-3 fats contained in oily fish can prevent the cancer spreading to bone marrow, a process which may be encouraged by the other major group of polyunsaturated fatty acids – omega-6 fats.
MILAN, ITALY. The association between the intake of various fats and oils and the risk of breast cancer has been the subject of several studies. There is still no real consensus as to which fats are beneficial and which are not. The evidence for a protective role of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), the main components of fish oils, is probably the strongest. Researchers at the Italian National Cancer Institute have just completed an investigation aimed at clarifying the association between fat intake and breast cancer risk.