Chew on This

Eating fish can reduce your risk of colorectal cancer, among other benefits

A work colleague recently told me that she had been diagnosed with colon cancer but was doing well. Then, as it usually happens, we got around to talking food. She had discussed becoming vegetarian with her oncologist but he offered that adding fish to a primarily vegetable intake would be a better choice. It took me a few minutes to find the research from 2015. It is worth sharing since colon cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women when skin cancer is excluded from the data.

Published in Nature, this was a large case control study. This means it looked at associations and cannot claim cause and effect. Over four years, 1,189 persons with colon cancer were compared to the same number of matched controls. A food frequency questionnaire was used to estimate food intake. This took place in China.

The findings were that a higher intake of both freshwater and sea fish was associated with a lower risk of colorectal cancer. In fact, there was a 53-percent risk reduction when comparing the people who ate the most fish with those who ate the least. This confirmed data from previous studies of fish and colorectal cancer. No cancer risk reduction was observed with dried/salted fish or shell fish.

In terms of anti-cancer activity, fish have a lot going on. The omega 3 fatty acids in fish have been reported to suppress mutations. The selenium in fish has anticancer qualities. And fish are a source of Vitamin D, which has been reported to be inversely associated with colorectal cancer. Even stronger evidence exists for the benefits of fatty fish on heart health.

So one meal can reduce the risk of the leading causes of mortality.

Benefits come from fish that is fresh, frozen or canned. Pick your convenience. And for recipes for every type of fish go to

Sheah Rarback is a registered dietitian on the faculty of the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine. Follow her on Twitter @sheahrarback.