Harvard Women's Health Watch

In Brief: Fatty fish linked to lower kidney cancer risk in women

In Brief

Fatty fish linked to lower kidney cancer risk in women

Many studies have found a relationship between regularly eating fish and a reduced risk for heart disease and stroke. But with respect to fish and cancer, the research has been less consistent, and much of it has failed to distinguish between lean fish and fatty fish. The distinction is important: While lean and fatty fish are both good sources of protein, fatty fish are far richer in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D — essential nutrients that various studies associate with reduced cancer risk.

According to the results of a long-running nutritional investigation in Sweden, where fish consumption is high, women who regularly eat fatty fish have a lower risk for renal cell carcinoma than women who don't eat such fish on a regular basis. Renal cell carcinoma accounts for more than 90% of kidney cancers. Each year, more than 14,000 American women are diagnosed with kidney cancer, and more than 4,000 die of it.

The Swedish researchers investigated the association between the risk of developing renal cell carcinoma and consumption of fatty versus lean fish in 61,433 women, ages 40–76. The investigators collected dietary data at the beginning of the study and again 10 years later and followed the women for an average of 15 years. They identified as fatty fish salmon, herring, sardines, and mackerel. Lean fish included cod and various freshwater species.

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