The Connection Between Fats and Cancer

I recently began reviewing the scientific literature for the relationship between fats and breast cancer. I had heard about the high fat/breast cancer connection, but thought there might be more to the story. I was so startled by what I found, that I decided to do a little more in-depth review. The more I read, the more amazed I was that this information has not been released to the public in any kind of major way.

These results indicated that a high-fat diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids can suppress human breast cancer cell growth and metastasis. (emphasis mine) This is a quote from DP Rose at the division of Nutrition and Endocrinology at the American Health Foundation in Valhalla, NY. Strong words, but they sure seem to be warranted by the evidence in the literature.

High Fat Diets and the Initiation of Breast Cancer

Thirty years ago, a strong correlation was made between high fat diets and the initiation of breast cancer (Rao). Mice fed corn oil had tumors that grew 3-4 times larger than those in the mice fed fat free diets. This was found to be true even on diets of 20% fat levels, not something that we could consider ‘high fat’ at this point (Ip). Tumor weight increased proportionately to the amount of corn oil fed up to a 4% level. In the mid-eighties, researchers started to differentiate the kinds of fats people were eating and began to see that it was not the overall amount of fat per se so much as the type of fatty acids being eaten. The finding about corn oil inducing mammary tumors were repeated and fish oil was found to have an inhibitory effect (Braden).

The differentiation of the importance of the type of fat on breast cancer growth was studied more and more. Breast cancer researchers started to see that Omega-6 fatty acids (those found in corn oil and saturated fats) were strongly associated with the incidence, size and rate growth of tumors. Tumor growth was significantly inhibited in animals given Omega-3 fatty acids such as fish oil (Kort). They also found that low levels of Omega-3 fatty acids (those found in fish and flax oils) were predictive of the incidence and severity of metastasis. (Bougoroux) Further studies showed that N-3’s delay or reduce tumor development, and show a statistically significant decrease in metastasis (Cave, Fay). They also found that increased N-3’s prolonged survival (Gogos), enhanced the effectiveness of chemotherapy (Das), and reduced the negative impact of radiation treatment (Gramaglia).

Other studies were done showing the effect of flaxseed and flax oil on melanoma. These studies showed a reduction of epithelial cell proliferation by 40-50% (Serraino), a reduction of tumor volume by 50% (Thompson), a reduction of metastasis by 50-64% (Yan), and a positive antiestrogenic effect equivalent to half of that of Tamoxifan with no side effects (Ocheson). Researchers found a differential effect of flaxmeal and flax oil with the meal being more beneficial as a protectant in the promotional phase of cancer and the oil being more effective in the reduction of already established tumors (Thompson).

Based on these findings, I have some specific suggestions for what to eat.

Stop using products high in Omega-6 fatty acids. The biggest culprit is corn oil. Stay away from products with corn oil. Do not use margarine. It is hydrogenated oil and will exacerbate the negative effect of Omega-6 fatty acids.

If you will be using protein shakes as a nutritional intervention, stay away from commercially prepared options. Most of these preparations use corn oil as the lipid and include high amounts of refined sugar. Use George’s® Restore. The protein is an ideal form for folks whose immune system is compromised. In fact, studies have shown that whey has specific immune enhancing properties. Add flax oil to the shake. Add oatmeal to the shake. And for the very best, the top of the line shake, add some All One vitamin powder.

Reduce saturated fats as much as possible. Be realistic on this one. Use olive oil rather than butter. Do NOT do a strict low fat diet because that can also reduce the amount of Omega-3 fatty acids. Work towards moderate fats with a high proportion of Omega-3 fats and neutral mono unsaturated fats like olive oil, almonds and avocados. Barry Sears has an excellent discussion of fats in his book The Zone. He doesn’t particularly like flax oil, but his overall discussion is excellent. The Omega Plan is another excellent resource and is far easier to read.

Make a significant increase in Omega-3 fats found in fish and flax meal and oil. If you want to learn more about planning dosage, read the article on omega 3s that is in the resource center. Some people, particularly those who are sugar sensitive and may have lower levels of functioning lipase activity, do not seem to tolerate the fish oil well. The addition of digestive enzymes including lipase prior to taking the capsules seems to eliminate the fish-taste regurgitation.

The addition of flax oil (or a combination oil such as Udo’s mixture) to the regime may enhance the effect of the increased omega-3 fatty acids. They appear to have slightly differing effects and may be synergistic.

Because flax oil has anti-estrogenic properties, it is useful in treating symptoms such as hot flashes. It also appears to have a chemo protective effect for post-menopausal women. However, by the same token, it is not advised for use with pregnant or lactating women because at higher doses may affect fetal reproductive development.

And finally, some people who are taking fish and flax oils find that the blood thinning effects of these cause them to be more vulnerable to bruising. Pycnogenol helps prevent this by strengthening the capillaries.


Using a Protein Shake for Breakfast

shake1 1/2 cups of low fat milk, or non dairy milks such as almond, hemp, or soy (I recommend oat milk because of its overall health value). Get the ones that do not have added sugars. The natural sugar found in milk or oatmilk does not present a problem. Adjust the amount of liquid to get the taste and consistency you like.  Many people add ice cubes to their shake and find it enhances the consistency.

1/2 c. fruit – Choose whatever fruit you find the most comforting. Some people forgo the fruit and simply use more milk liquid.

Enough Protein Powder for your protein needs.  George’s® Restore has no sugar, no GMO, no hormones and tastes great.  [link and image]

Rolled oats – use 1/4 – 1/2 cup. If you don’t like the grittiness of them, put them in the blender first and pulverize them.

1-2 TBS flax oil or a mixed oil such as Udo’s or 2 TBS flax meal (fresh ground – it goes rancid very quickly. Do not use whole flax seeds because they are not digestible. Unless ground).

This shake is an ideal meal for on-the-run or falling off the cliff. You should not use it more than once a day. It is fine for children to have.


Bibliography on  Fats and Cancer

Bartsch H, Nair J, Owen RW. Dietary polyunsaturated fatty acids and cancers of the breast and colorectum: emerging evidence for their role as risk modifiers. Carcinogenesis. 1999 Dec;20(12):2209-18. Review.

Bougnoux P, Koscielny S, Chajes V, Descamps P, Couet C, Calais G. alpha-Linolenic acid content of adipose breast tissue: a host determinant of the risk of early metastasis in breast cancer. Br J Cancer. 1994 Aug;70(2):330-4.

Bougnoux P, Koscielny S, Chajes V, Descamps P, Couet C, Calais G., Braden LM, Carroll KK. Dietary polyunsaturated fat in relation to mammary carcinogenesis in rats. Lipids. 1986 Apr;21(4):285-8.

Cave WT Jr. Dietary omega-3 polyunsaturated fats and breast cancer. Nutrition. 1996 Jan;12(1 Suppl):S39-42. Review.

Cave WT Jr. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in rodent models of breast cancer. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 1997 Nov-Dec;46(2-3):239-46. Review.

Connolly JM, Gilhooly EM, Rose DP. Effects of reduced dietary linoleic acid intake, alone or combined with an algal source of docosahexaenoic acid, on MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cell growth and apoptosis in nude mice. Nutr Cancer. 1999;35(1):44-9.

Connolly JM, Liu XH, Rose DP. Effects of dietary menhaden oil, soy, and a cyclooxygenase inhibitor on human breast cancer cell growth and metastasis in nude mice. Nutr Cancer. 1997;29(1):48-54.

Das UN. Reversal of tumor cell drug resistance by essential fatty acids. Lipids. 1999;34 Suppl:S103.

Fay MP, Freedman LS. Meta-analyses of dietary fats and mammary neoplasms in rodent experiments. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 1997 Nov-Dec;46(2-3):215-23.

Gogos CA, Ginopoulos P, Salsa B, Apostolidou E, Zoumbos NC, Kalfarentzos F. Dietary omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids plus vitamin E restore immunodeficiency and prolong survival for severely ill patients with generalized malignancy: a randomized control trial. Cancer. 1998 Jan 15;82(2):395-402.

Gramaglia A, Loi GF, Mongioj V, Baronzio GF. Increased survival in brain metastatic patients treated with stereotactic radiotherapy, omega three fatty acids and bioflavonoids. Anticancer Res. 1999 Nov-Dec;19(6C):5583-6.

Ip C, Carter CA, Ip MM. Requirement of essential fatty acid for mammary tumorigenesis in the rat. Cancer Res. 1985 May;45(5):1997-2001.

Kalamegham R, Carroll KK. Reversal of the promotional effect of high-fat diet on mammary tumorigenesis by subsequent lowering of dietary fat. Nutr Cancer. 1984;6(1):22-31.

Kort WJ, Weijma IM, Bijma AM, van Schalkwijk WP, Vergroesen AJ, Westbroek DL. Omega-3 fatty acids inhibiting the growth of a transplantable rat mammary adenocarcinoma. J Natl Cancer Inst. 1987 Sep;79(3):593-9.

Li D, Yee JA, Thompson LU, Yan L. Dietary supplementation with secoisolariciresinol diglycoside (SDG) reduces experimental metastasis of melanoma cells in mice. Lett. 1999 Jul 19;142(1):91

Orcheson LJ, Rickard SE, Seidl MM, Thompson LU. Flaxseed and its mammalian lignan precursor cause a lengthening or cessation of estrous cycling in rats. Cancer Lett. 1998 Mar 13;125(1-2):69-76.

Rao GA, Abraham S. Enhanced growth rate of transplanted mammary adenocarcinoma induced in C3H mice by dietary linoleate. J Natl Cancer Inst. 1976 Feb;56(2):431-2.

Rose DP, Connolly JM, Coleman M. Effect of omega-3 fatty acids on the progression of metastases after the surgical excision of human breast cancer cell solid tumors growing in nude mice. Clin Cancer Res. 1996 Oct;2(10):1751-6.

Rose DP, Connolly JM. Influence of dietary linoleic acid on experimental human breast cancer cell metastasis in athymic nude mice. Int J Oncol. 1998 Dec;13(6):1179-83.

Rose DP, Connolly JM. Omega-3 fatty acids as cancer chemo preventive agents. Pharmacol Ther. 1999 Sep;83(3):217-44. Review.

Senzaki H, Iwamoto S, Ogura E, Kiyozuka Y, Arita S, Kurebayashi J, Takada H, Hioki K, Tsubura A. Dietary effects of fatty acids on growth and metastasis of KPL-1 human breast cancer cells in vivo and in vitro. Anticancer Res. 1998 May-Jun;18(3A):1621-7.

Serraino M, Thompson LU. The effect of flaxseed supplementation on early risk markers for mammary carcinogenesis. Cancer Lett. 1991 Nov;60(2):135-42.

Thompson LU, Rickard SE, Orcheson LJ, Seidl MM. Flaxseed and its lignan and oil components reduce mammary tumor growth at a late stage of carcinogenesis. Carcinogenesis. 1996 Jun;17(6):1373-6.

Thompson LU. Experimental studies on lignans and cancer. Baillieres Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1998 Dec;12(4):691-705. Review.

Tou JC, Chen J, Thompson LU. Flaxseed and its lignan precursor, secoisolariciresinol diglycoside, affect pregnancy outcome and reproductive development in rats. J Nutr. 1998 Nov;128(11):1861-8.

Yan L, Yee JA, Li D, McGuire MH, Thompson LU. Dietary flaxseed supplementation and experimental metastasis of melanoma cells in mice. Cancer Lett. 1998 Feb 27;124(2):181-6.

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