HealthDay News — For patients with early-stage breast cancer treated with aromatase inhibitors, arthralgia is improved with omega-3 fatty acid treatment and with placebo, according to a study published online in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Dawn L. Hershman, MD, from the Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, and colleagues randomly assigned 249 women with early-stage breast cancer receiving an aromatase inhibitor who had a worst joint pain/stiffness score of ≥5 of 10 using the Brief Pain Inventory-Short Form (BPI-SF) to receive omega-3 fatty acids (122 patients) or placebo (127 patients) for 24 weeks.

Patients completed quality-of-life and additional pain and stiffness assessments at baseline and at weeks six, 12, and 24.

The researchers found that the mean observed BPI-SF score decreased by 1.74 and 2.22 points at 12 and 24 weeks, respectively, with omega-3 fatty acids, and by 1.49 and 1.81 points, respectively, with placebo, compared with baseline.

Twelve-week BPI-SF scores did not differ by arm (P=.58) after adjustment for baseline score, osteoarthritis, and taxane use. In patients receiving omega-3 fatty acid treatment, triglyceride levels decreased, while they remained stable for patients receiving placebo (P=.01).

“We found no evidence that [omega-3 fatty acids] improved joint pain or stiffness associated with [aromatase inhibitors] any more than placebo; however, we did find a large reduction in symptoms in both the treatment and placebo groups,” the researchers wrote.

Several authors disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical industries.


  1. Hershman DL et al. J Clin Oncol. 2015; doi:10.1200/JCO.2014.59.5595.