British Journal of Nutrition

Full Papers

Consumption of fish and risk of colon cancer in the Norwegian Women and Cancer (NOWAC) study

Dagrun Engeseta1 c1, Vegard Andersena1, Anette Hjartåkera2 and Eiliv Lunda1

a1 Institute of Community Medicine, University of Tromsø, Tromsø, Norway

a2 Cancer Registry of Norway, Oslo, Norway


Recent studies have shown a decreased risk of colon cancer with consumption of fish. However, most studies on fish consumption do not distinguish between lean and fatty fish, or between poached and fried fish. The aim of this study was to investigate any association between fish consumption and colon cancer in The Norwegian Women and Cancer (NOWAC) study. We focused mainly on lean fish, which was further divided into poached and fried fish. A total of 63 914 women were included in the analysis, 254 of whom were found to have colon cancer during follow-up. Since fish consumption was one of the main topics of interest in the NOWAC study, there is a predominance of women from northern Norway due to higher fish intake in this area; hence the study is not representative of the whole of Norway. The participants completed a semi-quantitative FFQ between 1996 and 1999, and were followed-up for incidence of colon cancer until 2004. No association between fish consumption and risk of colon cancer was seen, except for the third tertile of poached lean fish consumption (relative risk (RR) 1·46, 95 % CI 1·04, 2·06). This association disappeared when excluding women with less than 1 year of follow-up. In conclusion, the present study does not support the hypothesis of a protective effect of fish against colon cancer risk.

(Received November 13 2006)

(Revised February 18 2007)

(Accepted February 20 2007)


c1 Corresponding author: Dr D. Engeset, fax +47-22-85-13-13, email


Abbreviations: NOWAC, Norwegian Women and Cancer; RR, relative risk