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 Jul;70(1):85-90
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