Omega 3 fatty acids and breast cancer: New study

Fatigue, Inflammation, and ω-3 and ω-6 Fatty Acid Intake Among Breast Cancer Survivors

Added on 14th Mar 2012



Evidence suggests that inflammation may drive fatigue in cancer survivors. Research in healthy populations has shown reduced inflammation with higher dietary intake of ω-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), which could potentially reduce fatigue. This study investigated fatigue, inflammation, and intake of ω-3 and ω-6 PUFAs among breast cancer survivors.


Six hundred thirty-three survivors (mean age, 56 years; stage I to IIIA) participating in the Health, Eating, Activity, and Lifestyle Study completed a food frequency/dietary supplement questionnaire and provided a blood sample assayed for C-reactive protein (CRP) and serum amyloid A (30 months after diagnosis) and completed the Piper Fatigue Scale and Short Form-36 (SF-36) vitality scale (39 months after diagnosis). Analysis of covariance and logistic regression models tested relationships between inflammation and fatigue, inflammation and ω-3 and ω-6 PUFA intake, and PUFA intake and fatigue, controlling for three incremental levels of confounders. Fatigue was analyzed continuously (Piper scales) and dichotomously (SF-36 vitality ≤ 50).


Behavioral (P = .003) and sensory (P = .001) fatigue scale scores were higher by increasing CRP tertile; relationships were attenuated after adjustment for medication use and comorbidity. Survivors with high CRP had 1.8 times greater odds of fatigue after full adjustment (P < .05). Higher intake of ω-6 relative to ω-3 PUFAs was associated with greater CRP (P = .01 after full adjustment) and greater odds of fatigue (odds ratio, 2.6 for the highest v lowest intake; P < .05).


Results link higher intake of ω-3 PUFAs, decreased inflammation, and decreased physical aspects of fatigue. Future studies should test whether ω-3 supplementation may reduce fatigue among significantly fatigued breast cancer survivors.

  • Received April 11, 2011.
  • Accepted December 22, 2011.
  1. Catherine M. Alfano
  2. Ikuyo Imayama
  3. Marian L. Neuhouser
  4. Janice K. Kiecolt-Glaser
  5. Ashley Wilder Smith
  6. Kathleen Meeske
  7. Anne McTiernan
  8. Leslie Bernstein
  9. Kathy B. Baumgartner
  10. Cornelia M. Ulrich
  11. Rachel Ballard-Barbash
  • Catherine M. Alfano, Ashley Wilder Smith, and Rachel Ballard-Barbash, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD; Ikuyo Imayama, Marian L. Neuhouser, Anne McTiernan, and Cornelia M. Ulrich, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center; Anne McTiernan, University of Washington, Seattle, WA; Janice K. Kiecolt-Glaser, The Ohio State University College of Medicine, Columbus, OH; Kathleen Meeske, University of Southern California, Los Angeles; Leslie Bernstein, City of Hope National Medical Center, Duarte, CA; Kathy B. Baumgartner, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY; and Cornelia M. Ulrich, German Cancer Research Center, Heidelberg, Germany.
  • Corresponding author: Catherine M. Alfano, PhD, Office of Cancer Survivorship, National Cancer Institute, 6116 Executive Blvd, Ste 404, Bethesda, MD 20892-8336; e-mail: alfanoc@mail.nih.gov.



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