April 27, 2011
Omega 3 Fatty Acids Increase Prostate Cancer Risk?

Starve a heart disease and feed a cancer?

SEATTLE The largest study ever to examine the association of dietary fats and prostate cancer risk has found what's good for the heart may not be good for the prostate.

Analyzing data from a nationwide study involving more than 3,400 men, researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center found that men with the highest blood percentages of docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, an inflammation-lowering omega-3 fatty acid commonly found in fatty fish, have two-and-a-half-times the risk of developing aggressive, high-grade prostate cancer compared to men with the lowest DHA levels.

Conversely, the study also found that men with the highest blood ratios of trans-fatty acids which are linked to inflammation and heart disease and abundant in processed foods that contain partially hydrogenated vegetable oils had a 50 percent reduction in the risk of high-grade prostate cancer. In addition, neither of these fats was associated with the risk of low-grade prostate cancer risk. The researchers also found that omega-6 fatty acids, which are found in most vegetable oils and are linked to inflammation and heart disease, were not associated with prostate cancer risk. They also found that none of the fats were associated with the risk of low-grade prostate cancer.

How does this work? Does reduced inflammation leave cancer cells less attacked by the immune system?

I hear Joe Jackson singing: Everything gives you cancer.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2011 April 27 08:05 PM  Aging Diet Cancer Studies

PacRim Jim said at April 27, 2011 8:28 PM:

Sweeping back the sea.

Jake said at April 27, 2011 8:56 PM:

This makes no sense from a biochemistry or evolutionary standpoint. I have had prostate cancer and my DHA levels were low. I can't help thinking there was a giant screw up in this study. The mainstream media will accept these studies on face value. I will wait until knowledgeable bloggers look past the press release and examine the raw data this study generated.

I just reviewed three research papers linking inflammation with cancer. Here is a money quote:

"Accumulating evidence shows that chronic inflammation can promote all stages of tumorigenesis, including DNA damage, limitless replication, apoptosis evasion, sustained angiogenesis, self-sufficiency in growth signaling, insensitivity to anti-growth signaling, and tissue invasion/metastasis."

back40 said at April 27, 2011 9:15 PM:

Previous studies link high DHA with bowel cancer. It causes inflammation and makes the cancers more aggressive.

It isn't that omega-3 is good for you, it is that you need a balance of omega-3 and omega-6, and many people are deficient in omega-3 due to poor diet. In any event, taking high doses of omega-3 such as fish oil capsules etc. hammers the body with spikes of unbalanced nutrients, and wreaks havoc on the guts.

Seek foods that are better balanced, avoid foods that put you in omega-3 deficit, and use therapeutic doses seldom if ever and only when you are sick and the risk is worth it.

Earl the Pearl said at April 28, 2011 3:54 AM:

I bet there is a link to Vitamin D here, but no evidence to back it up.

Also, that it is not necessarily only about Omegas with the Prostate, its *about putting it to use* as frequently as possible. Protect the prostate by using it.

Dragon Horse said at April 28, 2011 7:18 AM:

Could it be "crap Omega 3" pills in the form of Fish Oil (the most potent ones) having high mercury content??

K.A. said at April 28, 2011 8:56 AM:

I believe fish oil can raise androgen levels. Perhaps aggressive prostate cancer can be induced by elevated androgens, whereas milder forms are influenced by inflammatory states.

Anecdotally, I only get acne if I take more than one gram of fish oil daily -- and I'm a woman! Perhaps aggressive prostate cancer can be induced by elevated androgens, whereas milder forms are influenced by inflammatory states.

K.A.! said at April 28, 2011 9:00 AM:

Oooh, copy/paste-fail!

J. Stanton - gnolls.org said at April 28, 2011 9:00 PM:

"Among the study participants, very few took fish oil supplements the most common non-food source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to prevent heart disease and other inflammatory conditions. The majority got omega 3s from eating fish."

Therefore, there might be some other characteristic of fish consumption that's causal to increased prostate cancer risk...or it might just be an association. For instance, many lake fish in the USA are heavily contaminated with estrogenic pollutants.

It's something to think about, anyway...and this is why associative studies don't prove anything in themselves, just suggest directions for future research.

Christopher Calandro said at April 29, 2011 11:27 AM:

Thanks for that Joe Jackson video. Fun.

SSR said at April 29, 2011 2:20 PM:

I've been singing that song since 1982! lol.
I always knew that it was sadly true.

dick fuel said at April 29, 2011 2:48 PM:


its like finasteride.

they probably shrink the prostate, making high grade tumors more likely to be sampled.

(but i didnt read the paper)

a quick pubmed search shows dietary associations to the opposite of your post.

Karl said at April 29, 2011 3:00 PM:

There are several aspects of this study to take into consideration:

1) These subjects were on finasteride (Propecia, Proscar). There have been no safety studies on how this drug works in relation to other medications, much less how it interacts with dietary nutrients. Maybe finasteride has a weird effect when it interacts with certain dietary fats.

2) Virtually none of these subjects were on omega-3 dietary supplements.

3) It very unusual that a small group of subjects had high DHA levels only. In most fish, as there is in most fish oil supplements, a healthy balance of EPA to DHA (more EPA than DHA) exists. The researchers have no explanation for the high DHA levels.

4) Whenever there is a fat imbalance, even within the omega-3 subset, there is a risk for a biochemical imbalance. Do I believe that these high DHA subjects would be subject to a two and a half greater risk of aggressive prostate cancer. Not a chance. There has to be some connection with finasteride or another confounding factor.

5) What makes the study even more questionable is that trans-fat, which is well-known for creating a host of health issues, including heart disease and just recently, male infertility, would actually reduce the risk for aggressive prostate cancer. In addition, omega-6 fatty acids, some of which are considered inflammatory fatty acids, did not increase aggressive cancer risk.

6) There have been numerous studies over the last decade showing the effectiveness of omega-3 fatty acids for reducing prostate cancer risk. I cannot say that I have seen one showing DHA alone helps or harms, however. The studies have always been with EPA and DHA together.

In the event there there is merit to this study, here are my recommendations:

1) If you are an older male, do not take consume DHA in high amounts by itself. Always consume as EPA/DHA, which 99.9% of you do already.

2) If you take finasteride (Propecia or Proscar), you may want to test your DHA levels to make sure they are not high. If the DHA level happens to be high, I would look to wean off finasteride (with assistance from a licensed health professional) as opposed to stopping consumption of fish and fish oil supplements. Balancing your EPA and DHA levels can be accomplished pretty easily."

PacRim Jim said at May 1, 2011 6:14 PM:

It's a crap-shoot until we reach the era of personalized medicine.

Razwell said at May 2, 2011 9:16 AM:

ALL food is a minefield. No exceptions. All dietary decisions carry risk. Science does not know enough yet about nutrition. The unknowns are far greater than the knowns.

We tread carefully through this mindfield. VARIETY is the most important principle of nutrition, with the underlying undestanding that we really do not fully know yet what is truly healthful .

It's always a bad idea to take extracts rather than just pure natural fish oil with a healthful balance of EPA and DHA or eat wild salmon.

Nutrition is not rocket science- it's FAR more complex.

Genuine science ALWAYS admits uncertainty and vast unknowns. All valid sources of scientific information will admit this.

Dam Spahn said at May 10, 2011 10:14 AM:

Finasteride use by test subjects is the confounding variable. The results are tainted, and not reliable, which makes this one big waste of time and money. Too bad.

Dr Lange said at July 14, 2013 5:19 PM:

This study is both ridiculous and reckless!! There is no correlation from this study with increased intake of omega 3 supplements and prostate cancer! NONE!! One must be very careful what they write if it can effect the overall health of our population! Look before you jump!! How can anyone conclude that a .02 difference in omega three in plasma between a diseased population and a healthy population correlates with increased risk of prostate cancer?? Patients that have prostate cancer have been told by their urologist, oncologist, cardiologist, GP and Optometrist to take omega 3 fish oil. This is the obvious reason why the omega 3 was higher in their blood than the healthy control group. Sick people take more omega 3! There is no cause and effect here! Hopefully people don't stop taking their fish oil because of this! Many good studies show the protective nature of EPA and DHA for all aspects of health including prostate health! I am sure the media will have another spin to talk about very soon.

Michael Lange OD, CNS

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