Fish oil may cut breast cancer risk 'by a third'
Fish oil supplements could reduce risk by up to a third, say scientists
The oils have long been credited with health benefits such as boosting brain power, but this is the first time they have been linked to a possible reduction in breast cancer cases.
A study of 35,000 women found that those who regularly took the supplements were 32 per cent less likely to develop the disease.
Researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in Seattle suggested the omega-3 fatty acids contained in supplements could reduce the risk of developing the most common form of the illness, invasive ductal breast cancer.
This type of tumour, which grows in the cells lining the ducts of the breast, is responsible for up to 80 per cent of the 45,000 cases of breast cancer diagnosed in Britain each year.
Dr Emily White, who led the research published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, said: 'It may be that the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil supplements are higher than most people would typically get from their diet.
'Without confirming studies specifically addressing this we should not draw any conclusions about a causal relationship.'
Edward Giovannucci , a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, added: 'It is very rare a single study should be used to make a broad recommendation.'
Scientists at Harvard are seeking to establish whether fish oil can reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease and strokes.
Earlier this year fish oil was hailed as the 'elixir of life' after scientists from the University of California, San Francisco found it could have a direct effect on extending the lifespan of cells.
The UK Food Standards Agency advises consumers eat at least one portion of oily fish a week.