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Eating More Fish Linked to Reduced Risk of Colorectal Cancer

Eating More Fish Linked to Reduced Risk of Colorectal Cancer

A new study from the International Agency for Research on Cancer found consuming more seafood led to a decreased risk for this prevalent type of cancer.

We already love seafood like salmon and shrimp for their heart, brain, and immune health benefits, but a new European study is giving us one more reason to order the catch of the day. Turns out, consuming more fatty, oily fish and lean, white fish could lessen our risk for colorectal cancer, too.

Researchers analyzed the eating habits of more than half a million participants from the European Prospective Investigation Into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study for approximately 15 years. Subjects were specifically asked about their dietary intakes of both fatty and lean fish during this time.

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Participants who consumed more of both types of fish on a regular basis—somewhere between 3.5 oz. and 7 oz. per week—had a seven percent lower risk of colorectal cancer than those who did not. Researchers believe this has something to do with the high omega-3 fatty acid content of several popular types of fish, like salmon, trout, and sea bass.

This is a major discovery, as colorectal cancer is the second most prevalent type of cancer for men and third for women globally. It is also on the rise in young adults, with a 90 and 124 percent expected increase in cases, respectively, for those 20-34 years old in the next decade.

Looking for delicious, easy ways to eat more fish?

The current recommendation for fish consumption in the U.S. is at least 8 oz. per week, or the equivalent to two, 4-oz. servings. However, a recent study from the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found Americans are seriously missing the mark.

Researchers monitored the consumption of various animal proteins in America for almost two decades and found only 15 percent of Americans are actually meeting the weekly recommendations for fish consumption. Most of us were consuming about half the recommendation, on average. The study also found that while we are consuming less than we did 20 years ago, we are still eating too much processed meat (which is considered carcinogenic by the World Health Organization).

The Bottom Line

The authors of this study mentioned they are still unsure as to why fish consumption decreased one’s risk for colorectal cancer, and more studies need to be conducted before touting both fatty and lean fish as a way to prevent this type of cancer. However, it looks like we could all benefit from consuming a little more fish (and a little less processed meat!), as there are plenty of other science-backed reasons to enjoy fresh-caught and frozen fish.


Fish-and-Veggie Diets Cut Cancer Risk

That’s the finding from the Adventist Health Study that included more than 77,000 Seventh Day Adventists (JAMA Internal Medicine, May, 2015). Eating meat, drinking alcohol and smoking is discouraged by the religion, and about half of the participants ate no meat. Some were vegan, while others included eggs and dairy or fish in their plant-based regimens.


Colorectal Cancer: Eating Fish, And 8 Other Things That Could Lower Your Risk

Getting more fish in your diet could lower your risk of developing colorectal cancer, according to a new review of studies.

Researchers from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School looked at the research to find that people who ate fish as part of their regular diets have a 12 percent lower chance of developing colorectal cancer, than people who don't eat much fish at all, Reuters reported.

The association was stronger for rectal cancer, but a "modest trend" was still seen for colon cancer, according to the study, published in the American Journal of Medicine.

But "if you eat fish very frequently, it's not clear whether your benefit continues to go up (by eating even more)," study researcher Dr. Michael Gochfeld told Reuters.

Earlier this year, a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that eating at least three servings of fish a week can lower women's risk of some kinds of colon polyps -- which can turn into cancer.

Researchers of that study, from Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, said fish may work in this sense because the omega-3 fatty acids in fish can decrease inflammation, thereby lowering risk of colon polyp development.

Colorectal cancer is currently the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S., according to the CDC, but the number of new cases and deaths are both decreasing, due to better treatment and early detection. While more adults are being screened, one in three adults still isn't getting screened for colorectal cancer when they should be.

Want to take action against colorectal cancer? Check out this slideshow of foods and behaviors that are linked with a decreased risk of colorectal cancer, or its risk factors:


Eating fish 3 times a week could significantly reduce your risk of bowel cancer

Eating three or more portions of fish per week cuts the risk of bowel cancer, new research suggests.

Researchers from the University of Oxford and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), examined the dietary habits of 476,160 people who had filled in questionnaires about how often they eat certain foods.

The surveys included detail on the participants' fish intake, including white, fatty, oily, and lean fish.

The results showed that eating 359.1g of any fish per week led to a 12% decreased risk of bowel cancer compared with eating less than 63.49g a week.

Meanwhile, people eating just 123.9g a week of oily fish, such as salmon and sardines, experienced a 10% lower risk of bowel cancer. A typical portion of fish is around 100g.

The researchers concluded: "Consumption of fish appears to reduce the risk of colorectal (bowel) cancer and should be encouraged as part of a healthy diet."

The team said fatty and oily fish is an extremely rich source of long-chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 LC-PUFA), which are believed to have a protective effect in the body and prevent inflammation. Non-fatty fish also contains these particular fatty acid compounds.

However, shellfish appeared to have no effect on the risk of bowel cancer.

Over the next 15 years, 6,291 people involved in the study were found to have developed bowel cancer.

The study was published in the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology and was funded by the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) in order to help strengthen its advice to the public on bowel cancer.

Dr Marc Gunter, the lead researcher from the IARC, said that the findings demonstrate that eating fish should be encouraged as part of a healthy diet.

However, Gunter highlighted one downfall of the study was that dietary data collected from participants did not include information on fish oil supplement intake.

"This unmeasured fish oil supplementation may also have an effect on bowel cancer, so further studies will be needed to see if fish or fish oil influence bowel cancer risk," Gunter said.

Previous research by the WCRF has found only limited evidence that consuming fish may be linked with a reduced risk of bowel cancer.

Dr Anna Diaz Font, head of research funding at the WCRF, said: "This large study adds to the scientific evidence suggesting that consuming fish could reduce the risk of bowel cancer."

Font went on to explain that while the biological reasons by which fish consumption potentially lowers risk are not fully understood, one of the theories include "specific fatty acids such as omega-3, found almost exclusively in fish, being responsible for this protective effect via their anti-inflammatory properties".

Lisa Wilde, director of research and external affairs at Bowel Cancer UK, welcomed the study but called for further research.

"Making simple changes to your lifestyle can help stack the odds against bowel cancer," Wilde said.

"Including wholegrains, fibre and fish in your diet, being of a healthy body weight, having regular physical activity, avoiding processed meats and limiting red meat, can all make a real difference."

Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK and has the second-highest death rate of all cancers.

Around 42,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year, Bowel Cancer UK states.

This equates to around 115 new cases of bowel cancer every day.

Symptoms of bowel cancer can include a change in your bowel habits, blood in stool, weight loss , pain in your abdomen or back, fatigue and feeling as though you need to strain your back package, even after going to the toilet, Cancer Research UK outlines.


4 Great Reasons to Eat More Fish

1. Eating Fish Can Reduce Cancer Risk

A study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition states that diets with high levels of fish consumption were linked to reduced risk of certain types of digestive cancers, when compared to diets with lower volumes of fish consumption. Examples of such cancers include pancreas, colon, oral cavity, pharynx.

2. You Can Reduce Your Heart Disease Risk

Since fish in general has high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, a nutrient that can assist in maintaining your heart’s health, it’s widely believed that eating fish may reduce your risk of heart disease. In fact, one review within the American Journal of Cardiology backs this up, claiming that eating fish is linked to reduced risks of suffering total coronary heart disease.

3. Fish Can Help Enhance Eye Health and Vision

Omega-3 fatty acids can benefit the health of your eyes and your vision, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. The reason is that the eyes and brain have heavy concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids and require them for proper function and health. As we said above, fish is a fantastic source of such healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

4. Eating Fish Can Help You Get a Better Night’s Rest

A study within the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine states that more consumption of fish helped to enhance the sleep quality of the majority of the study’s subjects. The study suspected the reason for this is that fish is a great source of vitamin D, a nutrient that can help with quality of sleep. So if you find it difficult to fall or stay asleep, adding more fish to your diet may help.


Prevent Cancer with Fish

Add to the already lengthy list of reasons you should eat fish: it protects against colorectal cancer.

A new study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, surveyed the eating habits of more than 5,300 people who also came in for a colonoscopy.

The women who ate the most fish (three times a week) were 33 percent less likely to have polyps, growths of tissue that accumulate in the colon and are considered to be precursors to cancer.

Researchers believe that the anti-inflammatory properties of the omega-3s found in fish are responsible for preventing these polyps from forming in the first place. Interestingly, this same link was not found in men. Researchers speculate that men could be less sensitive to omega-3s and would need to eat greater quantities to reap the same benefits as women.

More research is needed to determine whether omega-3 fatty acids really reduce the risk of colorectal cancer, but don&rsquot wait for the results before adding more fish to your diet!

Omega-3s, also found in walnuts, leafy greens, and flax seeds, have already been proven to improve heart health, boost mood, and even alleviate dry skin.

Wild Alaskan Salmon is one of your best bets, but you&rsquoll also get a good dose from other sources including tilapia, scallops, and shrimp (stick to domestic!).

To really ensure you&rsquore getting enough, pop a supplement once a day. If you&rsquore not crazy about the aftertaste of fish oil pills, try a krill oil supplement or even a vegetarian, algae-derived one.


The research adds to the evidence that eating fish can be part of a healthy, balanced diet, and may slightly reduce the risk of bowel cancer. However, it’s important not to get carried away with the implications.

The risk reductions were all very small. Although those for all types of fish and oily fish tended to just scrape in as being statistically significant, while white fish did not, they were all fairly close to the border of significance. It’s possible that some of these results might have come about by chance. This makes it more difficult to conclude with any certainty that any type of fish is better than another.

What we can say is that all fish tended to be linked with a small reduced risk of bowel cancer.

When you put this in absolute terms, only 1.3% of all people in the study developed bowel cancer. If this were taken as the baseline risk for bowel cancer, a 7% risk reduction for eating fish once or twice a week would give an absolute risk of getting cancer of 1.2% instead of 1.3%. So these are fairly small absolute risk reductions, far from the “slashed” risk suggested in the headlines.

The other main limitation is that observational studies like this cannot prove that individual dietary factors have directly caused (or protected from) disease. Many other health and lifestyle factors could be involved. People eating more fish may be following a healthier lifestyle overall, with more fruit and vegetables, less saturated fat and taking more exercise. The researchers have tried to account for several potential confounding factors, but it’s hard to fully remove their influence.

Overall though the study suggests that eating 1 or 2 portions of fish a week may have benefits in reducing bowel cancer risk. We already know it may reduce risks of getting other conditions, such as cardiovascular disease.


The Mediterranean diet food list

Following the Mediterranean diet means an above-average consumption of foods like:

  • Beans and legumes – Sources include black beans, kidney beans, lentils [black, green, or red], peanuts, peas, and soybeans.
  • Fruits – Sources include blackberries, blueberries, grapes, mangoes, oranges, plums, strawberries, and watermelon.
  • Healthy fats, fish, and meat – Sources include rainbow trout, salmon, sardines, and tuna. When eating poultry, buy skinless chicken or turkey breasts.
  • Nuts and seeds – Sources include almonds, chia, flaxseeds, pecans, sunflower seeds, and watermelon seeds.
  • Vegetables – Sources include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, carrots, eggplant, kale, mushrooms, red peppers, romaine lettuce, and spinach.
  • Whole grains – Sources include amaranth, brown rice, freekeh, oats, and quinoa.

The Mediterranean diet also includes a high ratio of monounsaturated to saturated fatty acids. The diet also suggests a low intake of alcohol and red meat.

For the study, the researchers completely eliminated soft drinks from diet of the participants since these beverages are associated with a higher risk of developing cancer.


The Mediterranean diet food list

Following the Mediterranean diet means an above-average consumption of foods like:

  • Beans and legumes – Sources include black beans, kidney beans, lentils [black, green, or red], peanuts, peas, and soybeans.
  • Fruits – Sources include blackberries, blueberries, grapes, mangoes, oranges, plums, strawberries, and watermelon.
  • Healthy fats, fish, and meat – Sources include rainbow trout, salmon, sardines, and tuna. When eating poultry, buy skinless chicken or turkey breasts.
  • Nuts and seeds – Sources include almonds, chia, flaxseeds, pecans, sunflower seeds, and watermelon seeds.
  • Vegetables – Sources include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, carrots, eggplant, kale, mushrooms, red peppers, romaine lettuce, and spinach.
  • Whole grains – Sources include amaranth, brown rice, freekeh, oats, and quinoa.

The Mediterranean diet also includes a high ratio of monounsaturated to saturated fatty acids. The diet also suggests a low intake of alcohol and red meat.

For the study, the researchers completely eliminated soft drinks from diet of the participants since these beverages are associated with a higher risk of developing cancer.

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Eating More Fish Linked to Reduced Risk of Colorectal Cancer - Recipes

Eating Fish Can Decrease Certain Cancer Risks

Eating Fish Can Decrease Certain Cancer Risks

Washington, DC (essentialfats.com) - Eating more fish is associated with fewer cancers of the digestive tract, Dr. Fernandez and colleagues report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Although several studies have linked fish consumption to reduced risk of heart disease, few have studied its relation to cancer risk. Dr. Fernandez and colleagues from Spain studied the relationship between eating fish and contracting cancerous tumors by analyzing several case-control studies conducted in northern Italy between 1983 and 1996. Case control studies compare two similar groups of people, in this case one group with cancer and one group without.

The researchers looked at data from patients with

10,000 different kinds of cancers and

8,000 controls (patients without cancer but with other acute diseases). They computed the odds of developing different types of cancers depending on how many fish-containing meals were eaten per week. Eating more fish (two or more times per week) was associated with fewer digestive tract cancers, including cancers of the oral cavity and pharynx, esophagus, stomach, colon, rectum, and pancreas. There was also reduced risk of cancer of the larynx, endometrium (lining of the uterus), ovaries, and multiple myeloma (bone marrow). Fish consumption did not seem to affect cancers of the liver, gallbladder, breast, bladder, kidney, or thyroid or for lymphomas.

The authors conclude, "even relatively small amounts of fish is a favorable indicator of the risk of several cancers, especially of the digestive tract." Moral (essentialfats.com). The fact that people who do not have cancer ate more fish does not mean that eating more fish prevents cancer. People who eat fish differ in many ways from people who do not eat fish. However, many studies have found that eating fish is healthy. The problem is finding fish that is not polluted or almost extinct. Farm-raised fish are usually fed parts from free-living fish and therefore contribute to extinction of fish. So do many pet foods containing fish.

If you can find a good source of fresh fish, and are certain that you do not contribute to fish extinction, enjoy it several times a week. Besides providing protein, fish contains essential fats. Instead of frying or broiling your fish, try microwaving it in a little soy sauce, lemon juice, garlic, and herbs. Not only does microwaving retain the fish's moisture, it cooks the fish at lower heat and maintains the structure of the delicate essential fats. Alternatively, vegetables like soy and flax are rich in some of the essential fats that are found in fish and we have plenty of these foods.

Some producers are now growing chicken that would be nutritionally comparable to fish. Watch for the use of artificial hormones and the feeding of surplus fat and animal parts. Buy chickens that eat healthy meals, preferably without pesticides or fattening hormones.

Fernandez E, Chatenoud L, La Vecchia C, et al. Fish consumption and cancer risk. Am J Clin Nutr 1999 Jul70(1):85-90