Fish oil is known for having many health benefits. Now you can add another one to the list. A recent study by researchers at the University of Manchester suggests that taking omega-3 supplements can help prevent skin cancer. The study was published in the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.”
This is the first time this type of testing has been done on humans. The study was led by the Professor of Experimental Dermatology Lesley Rhodes, from the Photobiology Unit Dermatology Center at the university. It was funded by the Association for International Cancer Research.
The study involved 79 healthy volunteers. Some of the volunteers were given a 4-g dose of omega-3, which is about one-and-a-half portions of oily fish, daily. The volunteers were then exposed to the equivalent of either eight, 15 or 30 minutes of summer midday sun in Manchester using a special light machine. Other volunteers were given a placebo and exposed to the same amount of simulated sunlight.
The study found that volunteers who took a regular dose of fish oil had a boosted skin immunity to sunlight. They also had a reduced sunlight-induced suppression of the immune system, known as immunosuppression. This affects the body’s ability to fight cancer and infection. Immunosuppression was 50 percent lower in people who took the supplement and were exposed to eight and 15 minutes of sun compared with people who did not take the supplement. The study showed little influence on those in the 30 minute group.
Professor Rhodes said that although the changes found in the study were small they suggest that a continuous low level of chemoprevention from taking omega-3 could reduce the risk of skin cancer during an individual’s lifetime.
These findings are significant in the battle against skin cancer as it’s the most common form of cancer in the United States, according to skincancer.org. More than 3.5 million skin cancers in more than 2 million people are diagnosed annually in the United States. Statistics also show that one in five Americans will develop skin cancers in the course of a lifetime.
There are various things that put people at higher risk for skin cancer. One of them is excessive sun exposure. Many people may think that wearing sunblock is a free pass to spending an unlimited amount of time in the sun, but that isn’t the case. Part of that is because people don’t always use sun block properly or at all. Previous studies have shown that sunscreens are often applied inadequately and not often enough. The Manchester University study suggests that there may be another way for people to help prevent skin cancer along with wearing sunblock.
Professor Rhodes stressed that omega-3 was not a substitute for sunscreen and physical protection and should be regarded as an additional small measure to help prevent skin from sun damage.
In addition to potentially helping to prevent skin cancer, studies have found that fish oil can have various other health benefits including reducing inflammation, lowering cholesterol, contributing to brain cell repair mechanisms, producing new bone cells and even weight loss. If you’re thinking about adding fish oil to your diet, this study is another reason to start today.