News / Health

Study Links Omega-3 Fatty Acids to Prostate Cancer

Salmon is a popular source of fish oil.Salmon is a popular source of fish oil.
Salmon is a popular source of fish oil.
Salmon is a popular source of fish oil.
VOA News
Fish oil supplements that are high in omega-3 fatty acids have been quite popular among people who take them to help with issues such as heart health.

Past research has indicated that omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in fish, fish oil and other foods such as wild rice and walnuts, can decrease the likelihood of cardiovascular disease.

But now new research released this week indicates that too much omega-3 could put men at a higher risk of developing prostate cancer, especially a deadly form of the disease. The finding confirms similar conclusions made in several earlier studies.   
While some experts have expressed skepticism about the study’s findings, men taking the supplement may find themselves weighing the benefits fish oil capsules may provide for their heart health versus the possible harm and increased risk of developing prostate cancer.

The study, conducted by researchers at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, found that high concentrations of three anti-inflammatory and metabolically related fatty acids called eicosapentaenoic acid - EPA, eocosapentaenoic acid - DPA and docosahexaenoic acid – DHA that are found in fatty fish such as salmon as well as in fish-oil supplements, are linked with a 71 percent increased risk of developing high-grade prostate cancer, the kind that experts say are more likely to be fatal.

The Seattle study also revealed that too much of the fatty acids can also lead to a 44 percent increase in the risk of low-grade prostate cancer – which grows slowly - as well as an overall 43 percent increase in risk for all forms of prostate cancers.

Fish oil capsules are popular for heart health benefitsFish oil capsules are popular for heart health benefits
Fish oil capsules are popular for heart health benefits
Fish oil capsules are popular for heart health benefits
To reach their findings, the researchers studied a group of about 843 men who had prostate cancer and another group of 1,383 men who didn’t have the cancer. They found that the prostate cancer patients had higher levels of the omega-3 fatty acids in their blood than those in the non-cancer group.

The researchers said that the consistency of their findings suggest that these fatty acids are connected with the development of prostate tumors. They also caution those who want to increase their dosage of omega-3 fatty acids to consider any potential risks.

The researchers said they’re unclear so far about why the high levels of omega-3 fatty acids would increase prostate cancer risk. They do point out that omega-3 fatty acids converting into compounds could damage cells and DNA, and their role in immunosuppression.  They said that they don’t know whether or not these effects can actually impact cancer risks and that further research into possible mechanisms will be needed.

These new findings, published July 11 in the online edition of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, confirm those made in 2011 by the same Seattle researchers.

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Comments page of 2
by: Omegafort SCC from: Miami, Florida
July 31, 2013 5:19 PM
This has been a perfect example of the whiplash effect created by the feeding frenzy tendencies of much of today’s hyperactive media. One paper comes out (which by the way has been proven to have numerous methodology flaws) and many in the media and blogosphere overreact (perhaps because controversy of this sort sells more papers and garners more clicks?). But it very much bears keeping in mind that science is aggregative, and any one single study cannot negate 50 years’ worth of evidence that largely validate the positive health benefits of omega-3 for a variety of diseases – such as various forms of cancer itself, even including prostate cancer.

by: Tunde from: Lagos
July 26, 2013 4:03 AM
This is a sensational finding which should have been treated more carefully by the reviewers of the Journal that published the findings! The media should tread softly and not confuse the public.

by: Dr. Lange from: ocala florida
July 20, 2013 8:54 PM
Dr. Michael Lange comments: this study is ridiculous and reckless! A retraction needs to be printed. Many people may stop taking their fish oil and suffer a hear attack, stroke or many other potentially fatal problems because they are scared into stopping their fish oil!! This study doesnt prove anything regarding taking fish oil supplements and prostate cancer, they dont even know if anyone was taking a supplement or even eating fish? Most prostate cancer patients are told by their oncologist and urologist and cardiologist and optometrist to take omega 3! So of course omega 3 levels would be higher! There is NO cause and effect! I am surprised they werent a lot higher, People think before you write, and media really needs to print a retraction! Dr. Michael Lange, OD, CNS

by: Just a Guy
July 16, 2013 12:02 PM
Did the study take into account that cancer patients are far more likely to take fish oil supplements?

by: Mark from: Connecticut
July 16, 2013 7:44 AM
On further research on this subject I came across this statement that hit home for me..."You would also expect that the countries with the lowest fish intake would have the lowest rates of prostate cancer. And yet the opposite is far closer to the truth".

Interesting right?

by: Bryan
July 15, 2013 9:12 PM
this article also only reports on the relative risk of supplementation, and not the absolute risk. If you could increase your chances of winning the lottery by 500%, you still aren't very likely at all to win.

by: Big John from: San Francisco
July 15, 2013 2:40 PM
Is Krill oil the same?

by: Verticalpharmacy from: California
July 15, 2013 6:39 AM
Go Vegan to protect your self from Cancer.

by: Teri from: California
July 14, 2013 12:52 PM
Frustrating that "how much is too much" is not reported on here. That's crucial information, IMO.

by: Anonymous
July 14, 2013 1:42 AM
how much is "too much omega 3"?
Comments page of 2

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