Flaxseed Oil and Cancer

While the nutritional benefits of flaxseed oil are weak, there is some evidence that it can successfully combat cancer. Especially breast cancer. Flaxseed oil contains an omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA. Modern Western diseases may be a result of the lack of omega-3s in the diet. Although ineffecient in comparison to fish oil supplements, ALA seems to have an effect on cancer.

A study using mice involved injecting them with human breast cancer tissue, and then divding the group into two. One would continue to receive a regular diet and the other a diet including flaxseed. At the conclusion of the study, the group that was not fed flaxseed had a significant increase in the spread of cancer than those were.

This seems to show a direct correlation between cancer metastisis and ALA.

Another study published in the European Journal of Cancer sampled biopsies of 123 women with metastatic breast cancer and 59 women with only benign breast tumors. The only difference between the two was a higher concentration of ALA in the women with benign cancer.

There has been extensive research into the connection between lignans, a molecule found in some plants, including flax, and cancer. While lignans do posess anti-cancer properties, they generally are not present in flaxseed oil. However, some supplements do advertise the presence of lignans.

While we do not recommend using flaxseed oil soley as a cancer-fighter, or even as a supplement (fish oil is a more efficient source of omega-3), we believe that if you are suffering from breast cancer it may be worth it to ask your doctor about flax.


Nutrition and Cancer 2002, Vol. 43, No. 2, Pages 187-192

Eur J Cancer, 2000;36:335-340

BioFactors, Volume 13, Numbers 1-4 / 2000:179 - 185