(NaturalNews) An omega-3 fish oil dietary supplement could reduce your risk of skin cancer, according to a study conducted by researchers from the University of Manchester and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
"This study adds to the evidence that omega-3 is a potential nutrient to protect against skin cancer," lead researcher Lesley Rhodes said.
Although prior studies have linked with fish oil supplements to a number of important health benefits, including cancer prevention, this study is the first to show a skin cancer prevention benefit in humans.
"This is the first time that there has been a clinical trial directly in people," Rhodes said. "It has taken a number of years to get to this stage and the findings are very exciting."
The researchers assigned 79 healthy adults to take either a daily, four gram omega-3 supplement (equivalent to about 1.5 servings of oily fish) or an equivalent placebo. After taking the placebo or supplement, each participant was treated with a machine that expose them to light and ultraviolet radiation equivalent to eight, 15 or 30 minutes of midday summer sun in Manchester, England.
Exposure to sunlight is known in some cases to actually suppress the immune system, which makes it harder for the body to fight off skin infections as well as cancers. But the researchers found that immunosuppression was 50 percent lower among participants who had taken the omega-3 supplement than among those who had been given the placebo.
The effect was seen only in participants who had been exposed to the equivalent of eight or 15 minutes of sunlight, not in those who had been exposed for 30 minutes.
"Although the changes we found when someone took the oil were small, they suggest that a continuous low level of chemoprevention from taking omega-3 could reduce the risk of skin cancer over an individual's lifetime," Rhodes said.
The study was funded by the Association for International Cancer Research (AICR).
Many reasons to take fish oil
Although regular exposure to sunlight is important for synthesizing healthy amounts of vitamin D, excessive exposure can also lead to the skin damage that produces cancer. According to the researchers, fish oil supplements may help protect against some of this damage.
"Skin cancer has been one of the fastest growing types of cancer, and numbers will likely continue to increase," said AICR's head of science, Helen Rippon. "It is always exciting to see research that AIRC has funded generating such promising results, and we look forward to seeing future developments in this area."
Prior studies have linked fish oil to a number of important health benefits, including reducing the inflammation associated with chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Fish oil has also been explicitly shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and numerous types of cancer, as well is to improve brain function and reduce cognitive decline in aging adults. It also lubricates the joints, builds muscle and slows the effects of aging.