Another good reason to take your omega 3 supplement: it might lessen the chance of developing skin cancer.
A study published recently focused specifically on non-melanogenic skin cancers, which are strongly linked to sun exposure. UV rays not only damage skin cell DNA, but they also suppress a certain kind of immunity called “cell mediated immunity.” This suppressed immunity means that not only do the sun rays cause DNA damage and cell mutation, but they also prevent the body’s immune system from getting rid of these mutated cells, which then go on proliferating, leading to skin cancer.
(Suppression of immunity due to sun exposure is termed photoimmunosuppression.)
Previous studies have found that an omega-3 rich diet is associated with a lowered risk of skin cancer. As well, mice given omega-3 supplements had an improved immunity and decreased skin cancer risk. This new study aimed to examine whether the same effect can be achieved in humans taking omega-3 supplements.
How was the study done?
Researchers tested about 80 volunteers who are known to have nickel allergy. The idea was the following
- Exposure to nickel in these volunteers would cause an allergic reaction.
- But, sun exposure would weaken this allergic reaction, as it weakens cell mediated immunity (photoimmunosuppression).
- So, the longer the exposure, the weaker the immune response, the weaker the allergic reaction to nickel.
- Then, if half of the volunteers took omega-3 supplements, their immunity would be less affected by the sun, and thus their allergic response to nickel would be stronger than in the group that does not take omega-3.
All these theories proved to be true in this study. And although it is a small study and further research is needed to confirm these findings, they are quite promising nonetheless.
Moreover, it was found that longer exposure to sun light lessened the benefits of omega-3 supplements. So omega-3 supplements should be viewed only as a small measure that can benefit the body in multiple ways, one of which is possibly reducing the risk of skin cancer.
While this study is quite small, it is yet another good reason to adhere to a diet rich in omega-3. But ultimately, this is by no means a replacement for using sunscreen. In fact, the single most important fact to take from this study focus is the extreme importance of sun protection. It is not just about delaying wrinkles. SPF saves lives.
Thank you for reading!
SM. Pilkington, KA. Massey, SP. Bennett, NMI. Al-Aasswad, K. Roshdy, NK. Gibbs, PS. Friedmann, A. Nicolaou, LE. Rhodes. Randomized controlled trial of oral omega-3 PUFA in solar-simulated radiation-induced suppression of human cutaneous immune responses. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2013; 97 (3): 646-52.