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Scientists Discover How Omega-3 Fatty Acids Reduce Cancer Risk
18 July 2002
by Wyn Snow, Managing Editor

Researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB) have learned how omega-3 fatty acids act to reduce cancer risk.

Nicole Murray et al. created a strain of mice that are genetically predisposed to develop colon cancer. When these mice are fed a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, their risk of contracting colon cancer becomes the same as normal mice.

The researchers found that omega-3 fatty acids block the action of a chemical called protein kinase C beta II (PKCbII). When animals are exposed to a cancer-causing agent, two things happen: Cells begin to proliferate, and PKCbII production increases. However, when animals receive a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, this cell proliferation and increase in PKCbII do not occur.

Investigating further, the researchers also found that cells with a high level of PKCbII produce less of a substance called transforming growth factor beta receptor type II (TGFbRII), a molecule that keeps cell reproduction under control.

Colon cells in the transgenic mice on a regular diet lacked TGFbRII receptors -- but those fed omega-3 fatty acids had abundant receptors.

This finding is especially significant because low levels of TGFbRII also occur in many other types of cancer cells -- including breast cancer, gastric cancer, small-cell lung cancer, esophageal cancer, liver cell carcinoma, bladder cancer, squamous cell carcinoma, endometrial cancer and osteosarcoma. Thus, this research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of a wide range of cancers.


Frank Grazian. "Discovered: How Omega-3 Fatty Acids Cut Cancer Risk," Altmedicine.com, June 13, 2002. www.altmedicine.com/Article.asp?ID=3387. Based on: Nicole R. Murray, Capella Weems, Lu Chen, Jessica Leon, Wangsheng Yu, Laurie A. Davidson, Lee Jamieson, Robert S. Chapkin, E. Aubrey Thompson and Alan P. Fields. "Protein kinase C bII and TGF bRII in w-3 fatty acid-mediated inhibition of colon carcinogenesis." The Journal of Cell Biology, Vol 157, No 6, 10 June 2002.end-of-story


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