Eat a lot of fish? New research published in the American Journal of Medicine suggests that you likely have a lower risk of colon and rectal cancer than those who don not.
Colorectal cancer is currently the second leading cause of death from cancer in Canadian men and women. The Canadian Cancer Society estimates that 23,300 Canadians will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2012 and that 9,200 will die of it.
The study's researchers analyzed 41 international studies that tracked both fish consumption and cancer diagnoses.
"People who rarely eat fish may experience health benefits in a variety of areas — heart disease, reproductive and now colon cancer — by increasing their fish consumption somewhat," Dr. Michael Gochfeld, a professor of environmental and occupational medicine at University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey, tells Reuters Health. Gochfeld was not involved in the study.
Goshfeld adds that it's still unclear whether upping fish intake for those who already consume it frequently has any boosted health benefits.
"It's not clear whether your benefit continues to go up (by eating even more)."
The study focused specifically on fresh-fish consumption, although failed to pinpoint the kinds of fish or the preparation methods of the fish being eaten.
Research co-author Dr. Jie Liang of Xijing Hospital of Digestive Diseases in Xi'an, China, and his team found that regular fish consumption could be linked to a 12 per cent lower risk of developing, or dying, from colon or rectal cancer. Those who ate the most fish had a 21 per cent lower risk of developing the cancers than those who ate the least.
Liang warns there is some evidence that barbecued or grilled fish might actually increase cancer risk, not decrease it.
This new study doesn't determine why fish consumption appears to lower cancer risk, nor does it address whether the fish specifically affects cancer rates or rather healthy lifestyle choices made by fish-eaters.
In February, another study found that women who eat three servings of fish a week have a reduced risk of developing colon polyps.
Canada's Food Guide currently advises Canadians to eat at least two servings of fish a week, especially those highest in omega-3 fats.
If you're not a regular fish-eater and don't know where to start, check out the six healthiest fish options.
Watch the video below for surprising things you can do at home to lower your cancer risk overall.