Do Omega 3 Fats Increase Prostate Cancer Risk?

The short answer is No!!!  Omega 3 fats from fish and fish oil have been shown in numerous (hundreds) scientific studies to be associated with decreases in various chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer of various types.  Omega 3 fats like DHA and EPA (found in fish) are anti-inflammatory and we know that inflammation is a factor in many chronic diseases, such as cancer. A recent paper has been making the news that claims that higher levels of omega 3 fats in the blood are associated with higher rates of prostate cancer.  This is being reported in the news as reason not to take fish oil supplements.  But this study does not prove that and the paper is very problematic.

First of all, this retrospective study was not conducted to test the effects of fish oil.  It was a study published several years ago that looked at the relationship between Vit E and selenium and prostate cancer.  Then they went back and looked for correlations between other nutritional factors and prostate cancer. They found that higher levels of omega 3 in the blood in this group were correlated with aggressive prostate cancer and that men with higher levels of omega 6 fats (which are pro-inflammatory) were the least likely to get aggressive prostate cancer, a result contrary to lots of other research.  The researchers do not know if any of the subjects were supplementing with fish oil or in fact, anything about their diets, so this result could have been a result of eating fish or walnuts or flaxseeds or maybe related to the cancer.  Should we stop eating fish and walnuts and flaxseeds and eat more corn oil?  If this study was accurate, then prostate cancer would be rampant in countries where fish consumption is high, such as Japan.  But the opposite is true.  And lots of research correlates the Mediterranean diet with longevity and reduced risk of various chronic diseases, including cancer, and fish consumption is a big part of this dietary approach.  This study by Brasky, et al, also found that smoking cigarettes resulted in a lower risk of prostate cancer than not smoking, so you have to question the results of this study.

This contrasts with other research that shows that DHA or EPA omega 3 fats are protective or neutral with risk of prostate cancer.  There are a number of studies showing that higher levels of DHA or EPA are linked with lower prostate cancer risk.  A meta-analysis paper by Szymanski et al. published in 2010 demonstrates a 63% decreased risk of mortality (of dying) from prostate cancer from when eating more fish.  See the links below.

Keep in mind that taking supplements on top of a healthy diet is a lot different than adding some supplements to an unhealthy diet as some studies do.  And we do not know what the subjects in this study ate.

So until we get better prospective randomized research that proves a causal link between taking fish oil or eating fish and prostate cancer, I’m still taking my fish oil capsules (4 mg/day of EPA and DHA).  This is the amount that keeps my omega 3:6 ratio at 2:1.

Also check out the links to 2 articles and a video from some very prominent Integrative doctors commenting about this topic:

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