The health benefits of oily fish have been advocated for 20 years. Adding one or two servings a week of mackerel or salmon to the household shopping list is believed to help fend off heart disease and has been claimed to ease the symptoms of asthma and bowel disease, prevent premature birth, boost memory, and cure depression.
Now US researchers say that taking fish oil supplements may cut the risk of breast cancer. Previous dietary studies have been inconsistent, possibly because few people meet the recommended target for oily fish consumption. Taking supplements could result in higher levels of the omega-3 fatty acids that bring the benefit, they say.
Among 35,000 middle-aged women who took the supplements regularly over six years the incidence of breast cancer was reduced by almost a third (32 per cent), the researchers found.
The results, published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, are likely to further boost the booming market for the supplements, worth about $2bn (£1.31bn) globally in 2007, doubling since 2003. Euromonitor, which published the figures, predicted fish oil sales would reach $2.5bn by 2012.