Study: Omega-3 fatty acids linked to higher risk of prostate cancer

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Senior author Alan Kristal, Dr.P.H., is a member of the Public Health Sciences Division at Fred Hutch.

SEATTLE — High blood concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids – through fatty fish or fish-oil supplements — are linked to a 71 percent higher risk of aggressive prostate cancer,  a second large study by scientists at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center has concluded.

The study, announced publicly  Wednesday, is published in the online edition of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

The latest findings indicate that high concentrations of EPA, DPA and DHA – the three anti-inflammatory and metabolically related fatty acids derived from fatty fish and fish-oil supplements – are associated with a 71 percent increased risk of high-grade prostate cancer, the study found.

The study also found a 44 percent increase in the risk of low-grade prostate cancer and an overall 43 percent increase in risk for all prostate cancers.

The increase in risk for high-grade prostate cancer is important because those tumors are more likely to be fatal, the center’s news release said.

The findings confirm a 2011 study published by the same Fred Hutch scientific team that reported a similar link between high blood concentrations of DHA and a more than doubling of the risk for developing high-grade prostate cancer. The latest study also confirms results from a large European study.

“The consistency of these findings suggests that these fatty acids are involved in prostate tumorigenesis and recommendations to increase long-chain omega-3 fatty acid intake, in particular through supplementation, should consider its potential risks,” the authors wrote.

“We’ve shown once again that use of nutritional supplements may be harmful,” said Dr. Alan Kristal, the paper’s senior author and member of the Fred Hutch Public Health Sciences Division.

Kristal also noted a recent analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association that questioned the benefit of omega-3 supplementation for cardiovascular diseases. The analysis, which combined the data from 20 studies, found no reduction in all-cause mortality, heart attacks or strokes.


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  • philcoop8192

    I call "B.S." It's similar to the warnings against eggs and butter. First they tell us they're bad for us, then 10-15 years later they say they're good for us, then a few years later tell us again they're bad for us. The truth is, these self-styled experts are guessing and really don't know what they're talking about.

    • Monica

      Butter was a matter of trans-fatty acid. That's basically what will clog your arteries. Eggs was only half-true, and completely not relatable. In that case it was that eggs were high in cholesterol, which is true, but that cholesterol was good cholesterol. If you would be kind enough to explain how there's "good" cancer, I'd feel a lot better. Otherwise the two are nothing alike.

      • philcoop8192

        Butter doesn't contain trans-fats. Dietary cholesterol has zero effect on one's blood cholesterol level. High cholesterol levels are due to chronic vitamin C shortage. Don't be such a sucker for big pharma disinformation.

  • guest

    so do populations around the world that have a higher intake of fatty acids…i.e. fish oil…have a higher rate of aggressive prostate cancer? that would be a good follow up study…it would be accreditation to this study.


    The prescription drugs manufactured and promoted by the pharmaceutical companies kill a lot more people than Omega-3 capsules ever will. Doctors who bad-mouth supplements seem to conveniently overlook that statistic.

  • true lies

    Cancer is a very profitable business for Doctors Laboratories private health institutions and of course the pharmaceutical industry.

  • Danielle

    Does anyone have a number on how much a “High blood concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids” actually is? People shouldn’t be stressin’ over one pill a day if risk starts in those who take 15 a day.

  • Bettie

    Key word in study is MAY. In other words it may or may not. Wonder if this guy is paid by drug company as they are trying to discredit supplements as it is cutting into their billions dollar profits.

  • John

    This guy should put up or shut up let's see the proof if this was true lets see the study on Eskimos truly the sooner people like this guy can be sacked the better.Lets see him do a truthful study on the damage statins have done,what a waste of money

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  • Lynne M

    I guess it is up to the doctors and consumers to decide which dose is right for their diet. I am sure if the consumers will take omega 3 in moderation then there is nothing bad about these things. I just hope that the researchers will be able to recommend how much omega 3 to consume in order to prevent prostate cancer, which will be helpful.

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