Last week, several media outlets warned that eating two portions of fish a week increases the risk of malignant melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer.
The coverage was based on a recent study, analysing data from 500,000 subjects that were followed over an average of 15 years. The study reports a positive association between higher intakes of fish, tuna and non-fried fish and risk of malignant melanoma.
At the European Food Information Council (EUFIC), we had a close look at the science behind the study, to provide science-based dietary advice to the public and learn from the research. Our latest article provides a summary of the study and highlights some points to note when drawing conclusions, such as:
- As an observational study, this research is based on what the researcher observed, without any experiments or manipulation of the research subjects. Such studies can’t prove direct cause and effect – they only demonstrate associations.
- Although ‘’food frequency’’ questionnaires are a validated way of assessing diets, the estimates of fish intake may be inaccurate as they rely on people’s ability to calculate their own food intake.
- Any risk from ‘two portions of fish a week’ may be outweighed by the benefits: Fish, particularly oily, has been associated with many health benefits.
This article is part of EUFIC’s fact checking initiative ‘Behind the headlines’ that aims to increase science literacy among the public and support journalists as well as scientists to work together on improving the quality of the public debate on these important topics.
All the best,