A new review of the medical literature indicates that omega-3 fatty acids can protect the skin from the inflammatory response caused after sun exposure and that these fish-derived nutrients can reduce the risk of non-melanoma skin cancer.
Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston Texas analyzed human and animal studies conducted over the past 15 years on the effect of fish oil or fish consumption on sun damage and sun exposure. Their findings indicated omega-3 fatty acids have an important role to play in reducing the damaging effects of sunburn.
In experimental animal studies, the reviewers noted, there is direct evidence that dietary omega-3 fatty acids inhibit the cancerous changes that occur after ultraviolet radiation, including decreasing tumor growth and reducing tumors’ ability to multiply. However, equivalent levels of omega-6 fatty acids increase the cancerous changes that occur after exposure to ultraviolet radiation. In mice and in human skin exposed to ultraviolet B radiation, dietary omega-3 fatty acids dramatically reduce levels of prostaglandin E synthase type 2 (PGE(2)), an inflammatory messenger chemical that suppresses immune response to pre-cancerous cell changes. Dietary omega-6 fatty acids increase levels of PGE(2). In humans, omega-3 fatty acids also increase the time it takes to become sunburned, the review concluded.
The review authors also outlined the negative effects of omega-6 fatty acids, which, when consumed in large quantities act as pro-inflammatory substances. Omega-6 fatty acids are found in margarine, vegetable oils such as corn oil, safflower oil, and salad dressing. Americans consume omega-6 fatty acids in amounts 20 to 40 times too high compared to their omega-3 intake. There are a number of good fish oils on the market, but one of the best new ways to get omega-3 polyunsaturated fats is from krill oil.
In toto, there is strong circumstantial evidence from both experimental and clinical studies to support a role for omega-3 FA in the prevention of non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC). In experimental animal studies there is direct evidence that dietary omega-3 FA inhibits ultraviolet radiation (UVR) carcinogenic expression, with regard to both increased tumor latent period and reduced tumor multiplicity. Equivalent levels of omega-6 FA increase UVR carcinogenic expression. Dietary omega-3 FA dramatically reduces the plasma and cutaneous pro-inflammatory and immunosuppressive PGE(2) levels in mice. Dietary omega-6 FA increases prostaglandin E synthase type 2 (PGE(2)) level. Dietary omega-3 FA significantly reduces the inflammatory response and sustains, or enhances, the delayed type hypersensitivity immune response in mice when compared to an equivalent dietary level of omega-6 FA. Supplementary omega-3 FA significantly increases the UVR-mediated erythema threshold in humans. Supplementary omega-3 FA significantly reduces the level of pro-inflammatory and immunosuppressive PGE(2) levels in Ultraviolet B-irradiated human skin.
Black HS, Rhodes LE. The potential of omega-3 fatty acids in the prevention of non-melanoma skin cancer. Cancer Detect Prev. 2006;30(3):224-32.