Eating more fish could reduce your risk of bowel (colorectal) cancer, according to new research published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology which looked at the dietary patterns of nearly half a million people.1

The new study, which was funded by WCRF, followed 476,160 people for 15 years from all over Europe. Previous research by WCRF found only limited evidence that consuming fish may be linked with a reduced risk of bowel cancer2, but this new study helps to strengthen the evidence base.

The study found that those who ate more than three portions of fish a week had a 12% lower risk of developing bowel cancer compared with those who ate less than one portion a week. A typical portion of fish was classed as 100g (cooked weight). Current UK dietary guidelines suggest eating at least two portions (at 140g per portion) of fish a week, one of which should be oily.3

'Fish should be encouraged'

Dr Marc Gunter, the lead researcher from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), said: “Our research shows that eating fish appears to reduce the risk of bowel cancer and should be encouraged as part of a healthy diet.

“One downfall of the study is that dietary data collected from participants did not include information on fish oil supplement intake. This unmeasured fish oil supplementation may also have an effect on bowel cancer, so further studies will be needed to see if fish or fish oil influence bowel cancer risk.”

Dr Anna Diaz Font, Head of Research Funding at WCRF, said: “This large study adds to the scientific evidence suggesting that consuming fish could reduce the risk of bowel cancer. The biological reasons by which fish consumption potentially lowers risk are not fully understood but one of the theories include specific fatty acids such as long chain omega-3, found almost exclusively in fish, being responsible for this protective effect via their anti-inflammatory properties.”

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  1. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology. Consumption of Fish and Long-chain n-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids Is Associated With Reduced Risk of Colorectal Cancer in a Large European Cohort. 2019.
  2. World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research. Continuous Update Project Expert Report. Diet, nutrition, physical activity and colorectal cancer. 2018.
  3. NHS Live Well. Fish and shellfish. 2018.