May 5/washington/Asian News International (ANI) -- After spending five years researching on ovarian cancer in chicken models, University of Illinois scientists have discovered that a diet enriched with flaxseed decreases severity of the deadly disease and increases survival in hens. Already, many studies have shown that flaxseed inhibits the formation of colon, breast, skin and lung tumours.
For these reasons, the researchers felt it logical to study how omega-3 fatty acids affect ovarian cancer, as there continues to be no effective treatment at this time, said Janice Bahr, a professor emerita in the U of I Department of Animal Sciences.
Bahr said that 25,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year and 15,000 die. The incidences of death in other cancers have dropped recently, but ovarian cancer death rates have remained the same.
"The chicken is the only animal that spontaneously develops ovarian cancer on the surface of the ovaries like humans. In this study, we evaluated how a flaxseed-enriched diet affected two-year-old laying hens (hens that have ovulated as many times as a woman entering menopause)," said Bahr.
The results showed that hens fed a flaxseed-enriched diet for one year experienced a significant reduction in late-stage ovarian tumors.
"Most women diagnosed with ovarian cancer have a very poor prognosis because they are not diagnosed until stage 3 or 4 when the cancer has metastasised and spread to other parts of the body," said Bahr.
Hens fed the control diet had significantly more late-stage tumors that presented with fluid and metastases as compared to the hens fed a flaxseed diet.
Though hens fed the flaxseed diet did not have a decreased incidence of ovarian cancer, they did experience fewer late-stage tumors and higher survival rates.
"In hens fed flaxseed, we found that more tumours were confined to the ovary and they had less metastatic spread. This is an important finding as the metastases that accompany late-stage ovarian cancer are the main cause of death from this disease. If the cancer is found at an early stage, when the tumor is still confined to the ovary, women have a much better prognosis and more treatment options," she said.
In addition, researchers found that hens fed the flaxseed diet had better weight control, which is important because obesity increases cancer risk.
"Through this research, we have proven that flaxseed supplementation for one year is able to reduce the severity of ovarian cancer in hens. These findings may provide the basis for a clinical trial that evaluates the efficacy of flaxseed as a chemosuppressant of ovarian cancer in women," she said.
The study was published in Gynecologic Oncology.
From the May 10, 2010, Prepared Foods E-dition