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Fatty fish and fish omega-3 fatty acid intakes decrease the breast cancer risk: a case-control study

Jeongseon Kim1*, Sun-Young Lim1, Aesun Shin1, Mi-Kyung Sung2, Jungsil Ro3, Han-Sung Kang3, Keun Seok Lee3, Seok-Won Kim3 and Eun-Sook Lee4*

Author Affiliations

1 Cancer Epidemiology Branch, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Management, Research Institute, National Cancer Center, Gyeonggi, South Korea

2 Department of Food and Nutrition, Sookmyung University, Seoul, South Korea

3 Center for Breast Cancer, National Cancer Center Hospital, National Cancer Center, Gyeonggi, South Korea

4 Department of Surgery, College of Medicine, Korea University, Seoul, South Korea

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BMC Cancer 2009, 9:216  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-9-216

Published: 30 June 2009



Although it is believed that fish ω-3 fatty acids may decrease breast cancer risk, epidemiological evidence has been inconclusive. This study examined the association between fish and fish ω-3 fatty acids intake with the risk of breast cancer in a case-control study of Korean women.


We recruited 358 incident breast cancer patients and 360 controls with no history of malignant neoplasm from the National Cancer Center Hospital between July 2007 and April 2008. The study participants were given a 103-item food intake frequency questionnaire to determine their dietary consumption of fish (fatty and lean fish) and ω-3 fatty acids derived from fish (eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)).


Using a multivariate logistic regression model, high intake of fatty fish was associated with a reduced risk for breast cancer in both pre- and postmenopausal women (OR [95% CI] for highest vs. lowest intake quartiles, p for trend: 0.19 [0.08 to 0.45], p < 0.001 for premenopausal women, 0.27 [0.11 to 0.66], p = 0.005 for postmenopausal women). Similarly, reductions in breast cancer risk were observed among postmenopausal subjects who consumed more than 0.101 g of EPA (OR [95% CI]: 0.38 [0.15 to 0.96]) and 0.213 g of DHA (OR [95% CI]: 0.32 [0.13 to 0.82]) from fish per day compared to the reference group who consumed less than 0.014 g of EPA and 0.037 g of DHA per day. Among premenopausal women, there was a significant reduction in breast cancer risk for the highest intake quartiles of ω-3 fatty acids (ORs [95% CI]: 0.46 [0.22 to 0.96]), compared to the reference group who consumed the lowest quartile of intake.


These results suggest that high consumption of fatty fish is associated with a reduced risk for breast cancer, and that the intake of ω-3 fatty acids from fish is inversely associated with postmenopausal breast cancer risk.