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After Breast Cancer, Omega-3s Fight Fatigue

After Breast Cancer, Omega-3s Fight Fatigue

Fatigue, which can plague patients’ years after cancer treatment has ended, may be the result of inflammation. Now, a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology has found that omega-3 may help reduce fatigue associated with inflammation in these patients.

Dr. Catherine M. Alfano, of the Office of Cancer Survivorship in the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, and colleagues conducted a study that looked at the relationship between omega-3 intake and fatigue in breast cancer survivors (N=633; mean age=56). Participants completed dietary questionnaires, provided blood samples (which were assayed for C-reactive protein and serum amyloid A at 30 months after diagnosis), and completed self-report fatigue scales 39 months following diagnosis. Alfano and colleagues examined the relationships between inflammation and fatigue, inflammation and intake of omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, and fatigue and intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids. The researchers looked at dietary sources of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids as well as fish oil supplements as part of their analysis.

The researchers found that behavioral and sensory fatigue scale scores were higher by increasing C-reactive protein tertiles. Specifically, Alfano noted that participants with high C-reactive protein levels had 1.8 times greater odds of fatigue after full adjustment for confounders. They also found that greater intakes of omega-6 relative to omega-3 was associated with greater high C-reactive protein and greater odds of experiencing fatigue, with an odds ratio of 2.6 for the highest versus the lowest intake.

“Results link higher intake of ω-3 PUFAs [omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids], decreased inflammation, and decreased physical aspects of fatigue,” Alfano and colleagues concluded. “Future studies should test whether ω-3 supplementation may reduce fatigue among significantly fatigued breast cancer survivors.”

While the researchers noted further studies were necessary before recommending fish oil supplements to breast cancer survivors, they added that consuming fish, especially fatty fish high in omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, may a good idea.

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Alfano CM, Imayama I, Neuhouser ML, et al. Fatigue, inflammation, and ω-3 and ω-6 fatty acid intake among breast cancer survivors. J Clin Oncol. 2012; Mar 12 [Epub].
Norton A. Omega-3 fat tied to less cancer-related fatigue. Medscape News. March 29, 2012.

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