Lifelong Use, Long-Term Benefits

The researchers began their study by observing how these tumors develop. To do this, they first exposed the mice to omega-3 diets in utero via maternal diet consumption. This allowed the group to compare how well the different fatty acids prevented tumors from developing over the mice’s lifetimes. Study findings showed that over the course of lifelong exposure both plant-derived and marine-based omega-3 fatty acids are incorporated into mammary tumor tissue, thus allowing them to change the composition of the tissue. In addition, all types of omegas act to prevent and combat tumors by activating genes in the body’s immune system to block the pathways tumors use to grow.

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Lifelong exposure to fatty acids derived from marine sources was 8 times more effective at preventing and controlling HER-2 positive breast cancer than plant-derived fatty acids. Compared with plant-based ALA, consumption of marine-based DHA and EPA reduced the size of the tumors by 60% to 70% and reduced the development of tumors by one-third.

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Dr Ma said that plant-derived ALA was beneficial, but higher doses were necessary to achieve the same benefits. However, he noted, consuming higher doses of plant-based ALA will work well for people who do not like fish or fish oil.

Implications for Nursing

When asked how Oncology Nurse Advisor‘s readers can interpret his study results, Dr Ma said, “Extrapolating from mouse studies is always challenging. A best guess is a minimum of 2 to 3 servings of fish per week, which is the current recommendation for prevention of heart disease.” Patients who wish to use fish oil or krill supplements should take several capsules per day depending on the level of purity. A simple calculation is: if the capsule is 50% EPA+DHA per 1 g-capsule, then 7 capsules are needed per day. However, patients who choose to use a high-concentration formulation would significantly reduce the number of capsules they take. Dr Ma stressed that the main take-away is the importance of getting more omega-3s in our diets from plant or seafood. “Not only will there be benefits for cancer prevention but omega-3s are also good for the health of heart, brain, vision, etc.”


Liu J, Abdelmagid SA, Pinelli CJ, et al. Marine fish oil is more potent than plant based n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in the prevention of mammary tumours [published online December 27, 2017]. J Nutr Biochem. doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2017.12.011