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Fish Oil (Omega-3) and Prostate Cancer

Further information on the recent report that implicates omega-3 fish oil with prostate cancer.


Graham Player Ph.D.'s insight:

I looked further into the recent study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute that asserts “increased prostate cancer risk among men with high blood concentrations of LCω-3PUFA. The consistency of these findings suggests that these fatty acids are involved in prostate tumorigenesis.”

According to the popular media it was typically reported as follows – “study found that men with high levels of omega-3 in their blood were at 43 per cent greater risk of prostate cancer than those with low concentrations, while less common aggressive “high-grade” tumours were 71 per cent more likely than in those not taking supplements."

So I went searching for some independent expert opinions, which led me to listen to an interview with Dr. Anthony V. D’Amico. He is a professor of Radiation Oncology at Harvard Medical School and is the chief of Genitourinary Radiation Oncology at the Brigham and Women's Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. He has gained international notoriety for his work in detection, staging, and treatment of prostate cancer with over 140 peer-reviewed publications, and has co-edited four textbooks in Urologic Oncology. Therefore his credentials would certainly make him an authority on the subject of prostate cancer.

When asked to comment on the controversial study, I have paraphrased many of his comments as follows.

The scientific strength of the study is weak, at best, and the study cannot make the conclusion that it is trying to. These types of association studies cannot prove cause and effect, and are simply associations.

The way to strengthen an association study of this type is by making adjustments in the study for all the things you know can cause prostate cancer. This wasn’t done properly in this particular study.

They did make adjustments for things like family history of prostate cancer and diabetes. However they left out some very important risk factors for prostate cancer – such as ethnic race, age, PSA levels, physical exam results, and BMI or weight. For example overweight has been shown to be associated with more aggressive prostate cancer.

So we are left with an association that at best is very weak, and further weakened by the fact that no account was made for the known predictors of prostate cancer.

Further, it is not known whether the men in the study with prostate cancer started taking fish oil before they had the cancer or afterwards, and whether they were taking supplements or eating fish and for how long. The source of the fish oil is also not known.

You can listen to the interview yourself here -

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Omega-3 Link to Prostate Cancer Inconclusive

Omega-3 Link to Prostate Cancer Inconclusive | Cancer - Advances, Knowledge, Integrative & Holistic Treatments |
A raft of industry and academic experts have slammed the publication of a recent study claiming to 'confirm' a link between long-chain omega-3s and an increased risk of prostate - arguing that the authors conclusions are overblown and have caused...
Graham Player Ph.D.'s insight:

A new study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute is raising questions about omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in oily fish and fish supplements, suggesting that men with high levels of the oils in their bloods might also have a higher risk of prostate cancer.

Results of other studies on fish oil and prostate cancer conflict with the findings of this study. Omega-3 fatty acids have long been known for their apparent ability to lower blood pressure and cholesterol and perhaps protect against heart disease. They are also known to have anti-inflammatory properties that might help prevent a number of forms of cancer.

The published study can be read here -

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