Fish Oil May Increase Prostate Cancer Risk
July 15, 2013 by Robert Wascher
Filed under A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race, Cancer, Cancer Incidence, Cancer Prevention, Cooking Oils, Fish, Fish Oil, Flaxseed, Healthy Diet, Heart Disease Risk, Nutrition, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Prostate Cancer Prevention, Prostate Cancer Risk, Unsaturated Fat, Weekly Health Update, cancer risk, cardiovascular disease, cardiovascular disease risk, cooking oil, coronary artery disease, health, heart attack, heart disease, lifestyle, men, prevention, prostate cancer, risk
A new study suggests that high levels of fish oil in the blood may increase prostate cancer risk.
FISH OIL MAY INCREASE PROSTATE CANCER RISK
As I discuss in my book, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race, there is research evidence available suggesting that omega-3 fatty acids, which are abundant in fatty fishes and fish oil supplements, may potentially decrease the risk of breast cancer and other types of cancer. Indeed, in a recent column I reviewed a new study that strongly suggested a role for fish oil supplements in the prevention of breast cancer (Fish Oil May Decrease Breast Cancer Risk). Now, a newly published clinical research study suggests that fish oil may increase the risk of prostate cancer, and aggressive forms of prostate cancer in particular. This newly published study appears in the current issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
In this study, 834 men diagnosed with prostate cancer were compared with 1,393 age-matched men without prostate cancer. All of these men underwent measurement of the levels of fish oil-derived omega-3 fatty acids (EPA, DPA and DHA) in their blood. After measuring and comparing the levels of fish-derived omega-3 fatty acids in the blood of these research volunteers, the researchers found that the volunteers with the highest levels of these omega-3 fatty acids were 44 percent more likely to be diagnosed with favorable forms of prostate cancer, and 71 percent more likely to be diagnosed with more aggressive forms of prostate cancer, when compared to the men with the lowest levels of fish-derived omega-3 fatty acids in their blood. Overall, men with the highest levels of fish-derived omega-3 fatty acids in their blood were 43 percent more likely to be diagnosed with any form of prostate cancer when compared to men with the lowest levels of fish oil-derived omega-3 fatty acids in their blood. On the other hand, men with the highest blood levels of fatty acids derived from plants (omega-6 fatty acids) actually had a 23 percent lower likelihood of developing any form of prostate cancer.
As I have pointed out often before, studies such as this one can point out potential associations between specific lifestyle habits and the risk of cancer (or other diseases). However, they cannot truly prove a “cause-and-effect” relationship between individual lifestyle factors and disease risk. To arrive at this higher level of proof, a large prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled, blinded clinical research trial is necessary. However, given that this is not the first research study to link high levels of fish-derived omega-3 fatty acids with an increase in prostate cancer risk, I have recently cut back on my own intake of both fish and fish oil supplements. (Like millions of other people who take fish oil supplements and who regularly eat fish, I long ago added these items to my diet in the hope that I would significantly reduce my risk of cardiovascular disease. However, a recent prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical study of fish oil supplements in patients at elevated risk for cardiovascular disease showed no apparent reduction in the risk of heart attacks or strokes, or other cardiovascular disease events, among the research volunteers who were randomized to receive fish oil supplements.)
Until a large-scale prospective, randomized, blinded, placebo-controlled study is performed to validate the findings of this “case-cohort” public health study, it would seem prudent to cut back on daily fish oil supplements, which I myself have done.
For more information on evidence-based approaches to cancer prevention, please read more on this important health topic in A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race.
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Disclaimer: As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity
Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, professor of surgery, cancer researcher, oncology consultant, and a widely published author
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