August 12, 2010

Common Menopausal Supplement May Lower Risk of Breast Cancer

menopause depression, breast cancer, fish oil vitaminsThere are many specialty supplements on the market today for menopausal symptom relief, ranging from soy to St. John’s wort to fish oil. While many of these supplements are extremely effective in treating menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes, increase in allergies, depression, insomnia, fatigue, mood swings and menstrual irregularities; the effect of these treatments on a woman’s risk of breast cancer has been unknown until recently.

In the July issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, the VITamins And Lifestyle cohort study published findings that related many common vitamin and mineral supplements used to relieve menopausal symptoms to an associated risk of breast cancer. The study demonstrated that most supplements used for the relief of post menopausal symptoms are not associated with a risk of breast cancer, including supplements such as soy, dong quai, black cohosh, grapeseed and St. John’s wort.

However, fish oil, a common supplement that is primarily used for the prevention of heart disease along with the relief of menopausal symptoms, was found to have a positive effect on breast cancer risk. The findings of this study implicate that fish oil supplements are associated with a lower risk for ductal and local breast cancer in women without a history of coronary artery disease. Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to have several health benefits, including a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, weight loss, reduced inflammation and relief from depression symptoms. The omega-3 fatty acid additionally helps to prolong cell life, by protecting certain cellular components that determine how long the cell will live.

Because of the subjectivity of this preliminary study, doctors, pharmacists and researchers are not yet in a position to recommend fish oil to reduce breast cancer risk. Further studies of the effects of fish oil and risk of breast cancer in patients must first be conducted before fish oil can be professionally suggested to lower risk of breast cancer. Nevertheless, these preliminary findings are promising for a future preventative treatment of breast cancer.

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