High Fish Consumption Has Been Linked to a Greater Likelihood of Developing Cancer

Invading Cancer Cells Illustration

Melanoma occurs in the cells that produce melanin and is the most deadly type of skin cancer.

A study finds that high fish consumption is associated with an increased risk of melanoma.

According to a large study of US adults published in the journal Cancer Causes & Control, eating more fish—including tuna and non-fried fish—seems to be linked to a higher risk of malignant melanoma.

Eunyoung Cho, the corresponding author said: “Melanoma is the fifth most common cancer in the USA and the risk of developing melanoma over a lifetime is one in 38 for white people, one in 1,000 for Black people, and one in 167 for Hispanic people. Although fish intake has increased in the USA and Europe in recent decades, the results of previous studies investigating associations between fish intake and melanoma risk have been inconsistent. Our findings have identified an association that requires further investigation.”

The incidence of malignant melanoma was 22% greater among individuals whose median daily consumption of fish was 42.8 grams as compared to those whose median daily intake was 3.2 grams, according to researchers from Brown University. Additionally, they discovered that individuals with a median daily consumption of 42.8 grams of fish had a 28% higher chance than those with a median daily intake of 3.2 grams of fish of having abnormal cells in just the outer layer of the skin, often known as stage 0 melanoma or melanoma in situ. An average serving of cooked fish weighs around 140 grams.

The scientists analyzed data from 491,367 people who were recruited from all across the USA to the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study between 1995 and 1996 to investigate the association between fish consumption and melanoma risk. Participants, who on average were 62 years old, answered questions on their consumption patterns and portion sizes of fried, non-fried, and tuna throughout the previous year.

Using information from cancer registries, the researchers determined the incidence of new melanomas that appeared during a median period of 15 years. They also took into consideration the individuals’ BMI, degree of physical activity, history of smoking, daily calorie and caffeine consumption, family history of cancer, and the average UV radiation exposure in their neighborhood. During the research period, 5,034 participants (1.0%) developed malignant melanoma and 3,284 (0.7%) developed stage 0 melanoma.

The researchers found that a higher intake of non-fried fish and tuna was associated with increased risks of malignant melanoma and stage 0 melanoma. Those whose median daily tuna intake was 14.2 grams had a 20% higher risk of malignant melanoma and a 17% higher risk of stage 0 melanoma, compared to those whose median daily tuna intake was 0.3 grams.

A median intake of 17.8 grams of non-fried fish per day was associated with an 18% higher risk of malignant melanoma and a 25% higher risk of stage 0 melanoma, compared to a median intake of 0.3 grams of non-fried fish per day. The researchers did not identify significant associations between consumption of fried fish and the risk of malignant melanoma or stage 0 melanoma.

Eunyoung Cho said: “We speculate that our findings could possibly be attributed to contaminants in fish, such as polychlorinated biphenyls, dioxins, arsenic, and mercury. Previous research has found that higher fish intake is associated with higher levels of these contaminants within the body and has identified associations between these contaminants and a higher risk of skin cancer. However, we note that our study did not investigate the concentrations of these contaminants in participants’ bodies and so further research is needed to confirm this relationship.”

The researchers caution that the observational nature of their study does not allow for conclusions about a causal relationship between fish intake and melanoma risk. They also did not account for some risk factors for melanoma, such as mole count, hair color, history of severe sunburn, and sun-related behaviors in their analyses. Additionally, as average daily fish intake was calculated at the beginning of the study, it may not be representative of participants’ lifetime diets.

The authors suggest that future research is needed to investigate the components of fish that could contribute to the observed association between fish intake and melanoma risk and any biological mechanisms underlying this. At present, they do not recommend any changes to fish consumption.

Reference: “Fish intake and risk of melanoma in the NIH-AARP diet and health study” by Yufei Li, Linda M. Liao, Rashmi Sinha, Tongzhang Zheng, Terrence M. Vance, Abrar A. Qureshi and Eunyoung Cho, 9 June 2022, Cancer Causes & Control.
DOI: 10.1007/s10552-022-01588-5


View Comments

  • Did they take into account that people who consume a lot of fish are likely fishermen? Lots more sunlight exposure for them.

  • I hope no tax dollars were wasted in the "study." Median daily fish consumption of 1.5 ounces? Which means half of the people consumed less; ridiculous.
    Further, since the White cohort had a rate of mesothelioma almost 500 times higher than the black cohort we can assume BLM and wokie health professionals won't be marching in the streets.

  • ...OR, people who eat lot's of fish like to eat at outdoor restaurants, like to spend time fishing, like to hang out at the beach, like to have fish bbq's, or are wealthier and therefore spend more time lounging at their swimming pool.

    PLUS the effect size between top and bottom fish consumers is SMALL, absolutely swamped by the alternative hypotheses.

    This is what receives research grants? These are researchers? Seriously???

    • I eat a lot of fish as my main meal. Even for breakfast. I live down the jersey shore but I never go to the beach. I work two jobs plus don't want leathery wrinkled skin so I avoid the sun as much as possible. I don't have a pool,i sure ain't wealthy or hang out at barbecues lounging at friends poolside, I don't eat at outdoor restaurants and basically don't do anything you said fish eaters typically do yet i don't have cancer

  • They really need to study this? Most people who consume a lot of fish live in coastal areas because it's cheap. Therefore they usually spend more time in the sun. Common sense guys. Now it's easy to understand why people are skeptical of "science" these days.

    • The literally say that the study is not conclusive. People who don't believe in science are either Republicans or conspiracy theorist. You don't need to be skeptical of is skeptical of itself by nature

      • Not only is not conclusive, it's nonsensical. It's ridiculous to attempt to find any correlation from a one year snap shot of someone's RECOLLECTED diet to anything 15yrs later.

  • What about the people in Asia who eat more fish than anybody who also happened to be the most healthy

  • what the first guy said, no control for fisherman outdoors exposure. Associations are not causes; until headline is manipulated for click bait. story is straight.

  • Your odds of developing cancer are high if you live to old age. If you eat cheeseburgers every day, however, you're more likely to die of a heart attack at age 60.

  • Another B.S story without any proof or scientific studies/testing. Asian countries are the biggest fish eaters in the world. Did you do any research on them? No you did not... You need to go back and do so some credible scientific testing before you release more fake studies.

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