You may know that there are links between the foods and drinks you consume and different types of cancer.
For example, red meat has been linked to a higher risk of colon cancer and alcoholic beverages have been linked to a higher risk of breast cancer, while cauliflower may help reduce the risk of developing liver cancer.
This is now suggested by new research results Eating more fish is associated with a higher risk of melanoma.
In the study published in the journal earlier this month Cancer causes and control, researchers compared data on fish consumption and melanoma incidence from nearly 500,000 participants in the NIH-AARP Study of Nutrition and Health. They found that greater fish consumption increased the risk of malignant melanoma and melanoma in situ (also known as stage 0 melanoma). This correlation was true for consumption of fish in general, as well as consumption of tuna and non-fried fish, while curiously, consumption of fried fish was actually associated with a lower risk of malignant melanoma.
However, you should not take the results of this study as advice to eliminate fish from your diet. The connections between the foods you eat and your health are multiple, and this one correlation shouldn’t be the deciding factor, experts say.
“This article does not say that higher fish consumption causes cancer. He says increased fish consumption is linked to cancer,” said Sydney Greene, RDN, a member of the Eat this, not that! Medical Advisory Panel, explained. “In addition, it is important to note that some of the individuals in this study exhibited known cancer-causing behaviors, such as cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption.”
Additionally, she pointed out that there were some key metrics the study didn’t consider when looking at participants’ melanoma risk, including questions like the number of birthmarks a person had and whether they had a history of severe sunburn. For example, it is easy to imagine someone eating a lot of fish because they live near the water and the same person spending a lot of time in direct sunlight.
In addition, the benefit-risk calculations for the consumption of any food are too complex to be simplified to a single correlation. For example, Greene pointed out that fish, which is high in omega-3 fatty acids, may help fight chronic inflammation, while eating fish, which is high in mercury, could put you at a higher risk of cancer.
“Food categories are nuanced and we can’t determine whether or not a food category like fish should be avoided,” she said.
Similarly, Julie Upton, MS, RD., also a member of our medical expert panel, notes that the main finding of the study “appears to be very counterintuitive.” She added that the benefits of eating fish are supported by a larger body of research.
“More research is needed, as most studies show that eating fish is one of the best ways to improve overall health and wellness,” Upton said. “The Mediterranean diet, for example, is considered the gold standard for health, and seafood is a major source of protein in the dietary pattern.”
For more evidence-based benefits of eating fish, check out these 20 reasons why you should be eating more fish.
Clara Olshansky (they/she) is a Brooklyn-based author and comic book character whose web content has appeared in Food & Wine, Harper’s Magazine, Men’s Health, and Reductress. Continue reading