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International Journal of Breast Cancer
Volume 2012, Article ID 712536, 8 pages
Review Article

The Janus Face of Lipids in Human Breast Cancer: How Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids Affect Tumor Cell Hallmarks

1EA2160, Mer Molécules Santé, Université du Maine, Avenue Olivier Messiaen, 72085 Le Mans, France
2Département de Biologie, UFR Sciences et Techniques, 72085 Le Mans, France
3Département Génie Biologique, IUT de Laval, 53020 Laval, France

Received 27 April 2012; Accepted 6 June 2012

Academic Editor: Claudio Luparello

Copyright © 2012 Benoît Chénais and Vincent Blanckaert. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


For several years, lipids and especially 𝑛 3 and 𝑛 6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) receive much attention in human health. Epidemiological studies tend to correlate a PUFA-rich diet with a reduced incidence of cancer, including breast cancer. However, the molecular and cellular mechanisms supporting the effect of PUFAs in breast cancer cells remain relatively unknown. Here, we review some recent progress in understanding the impact that PUFA may have on breast cancer cell proliferation, apoptosis, migration, and invasion. While most of the results obtained with docosahexaenoic acid and/or eicosapentaenoic acid show a decrease of tumor cell proliferation and/or aggressivity, there is some evidence that other lipids, which accumulate in breast cancer tissues, such as arachidonic acid may have opposite effects. Finally, lipids and especially PUFAs appear as potential adjuvants to conventional cancer therapy.