Omega-3 Levels Influence Breast Cancer Risk in Postmenopausal Obese Women

Increased inflammation in obese women is thought to increase the risk of breast cancer.

Increasing omega-3 levels in the blood of postmenopausal obese women could lower the risk of developing breast cancer, a recent study suggests.

Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory effects. Typically, increased inflammation is found in obese women and is thought to increase the risk of cancer.

Although prior data supports the idea of omega-3s helping protect against breast cancer, the data has been inconsistent, which researchers believe is due to women of normal weight effecting the results.

Women of normal weight are found to have less inflammation than those who are overweight and are unlikely to reap any benefits from the omega-3s. It has also been found that breast density plays a role in the potential of developing cancer.

"The higher the breast density, the more likely the woman will develop breast cancer," said researcher Andrea Manni.

The study took 266 healthy postmenopausal women with high breast density randomized to receive the antiestrogen drug Raloxifene, a prescription omega-3 drug Lovaza, a combination of the 2 drugs, or no treatment at all.

The results of the 2-year study showed that increased levels of omega-3s found in the blood are associated with reduced breast density. This was only seen in women with a body mass index (BMI) that was higher than 29, bordering on obese.

Lovaza contains 375 milligrams of DHA and 465 milligrams of EPA. However, researchers discovered that only the DHA blood levels had an association with the reduction of breast density.

Future trials will look at the individual effects of DHA in women who are obese and potentially in combination with weight loss.

"The finding supports the idea that omega-3s, and specifically DHA, are preferentially protective in obese postmenopausal women," Manni said. "This represents an example of a personalized approach to breast cancer prevention."

There was also the discovery that Lovaza (4 milligrams daily), which is FDA-approved for treating severely high triglycerides, worked better for reducing triglycerides and LDL cholesterol, as well as increasing HDL cholesterol.

This occurred when Lovaza was used in combination with the half recommended dosage of Raloxifene (30 milligrams) in comparison with the individual treatments.