Fatty Fish May Decrease Risk of Kidney Cancer

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Besides the well-known heart-health benefits of eating fatty fish, regular consumption of fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines and herring may also help prevent kidney cancer. Swedish researchers recently found that women who dined on fatty cold-water fish at least once a week had a 44% lower risk of renal-cell carcinoma, compared with women who ate no fish.

The researchers from the Karolinska Institute of Stockholm used data from the Swedish Mammography Cohort, a population-based study of more than 61,000 women ages 40 to 76 with no previous diagnosis of cancer. The women were tracked over the course of 15 years. The findings were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Fatty cold-water fish have as much as 20 to 30 times the omega-3 fatty acids and three to five times higher levels of vitamin D than varieties such as cod, tuna and freshwater fish, or shrimp, lobster and crayfish. Lower serum vitamin D levels have been linked to the development and progression of renal-cell carcinoma, the researchers noted.

No reduction in kidney cancer incidence was seen from consumption of shellfish or freshwater fish in the study.

Lead author Alicja Wolk, DMSc, said consumers should not be scared off by the term "fatty fish," as the fish contain "good fats," and that the health benefits far outweigh any extra calories.

Previous studies have investigated a possible link between fish consumption and protection from renal-cell carcinoma. But Wolk and her colleagues said this was the first time the potential benefits of fatty fish versus lean fish were specifically examined. Previous studies had analyzed total fish consumption, not taking into account the differences between lean and fatty fish in the content of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D.

Though the results are extremely encouraging, the researchers cautioned that further study is needed, as this is the first epidemiological study addressing the issue.

TO LEARN MORE: Journal of the American Medical Association, Sept. 20, 2006; abstract at .

US kidney and renal-pelvis cancer:
• Estimated 38,890 new cases annually

• About 12,840 deaths in 2006

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