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Fitness, Sports, Money-Nuff Said

Fish Oil and Prostate Cancer
-What Should You Believe?

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Last updated October 15, 2017, originally published April 15, 2011

By L. Carr, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist
Editor's note: This article includes a discussion of the 2013 study linking
prostate cancer to fish oil supplements]

The story of fish oil's effect on prostate cancer is mixed.

There are studies that have found that fish oil helps to
lower your PSA levels. For example, in 2006, a study lead
by Dr. Naoko Kobayahsi and Dr. R. James Barnard of UCLA
discovered that including more omega-3 fatty acids and
less omega-6 fatty acids in the diet reduced PSA levels and
also prostate cancer tumor growth.

Tumor cell growth rates decreased by 22 percent and PSA
levels by 77 percent when patients consumed a healthier
balance of fatty acids which included more omega-3,
compared with the patients that received all omega-6 fatty
acids. (Read more about
foods that are high in omega-3
such as salmon.)

This study can fairly be said to compare the effects on
prostate cancer growth of a diet high in omega-3 versus a
diet high in omega 6 . It did not compare a diet of zero
omega 3 fatty acids to a diet high in omega 3. The other
limitation of this 2006 study is that it was a study on mice,
not men.

This was not the only study that found a beneficial link
between the amount of omega-3 fatty acid in your diet and
your risk of prostate cancer.  In 2012, a team of
researchers from Harvard found the same result.

The 2012 Swedish study was conducted by an
international team from the US and Sweden led by Dr.
Mara Meyer Epstein of the Harvard School of Public Health
and Dr. Swen Olof-Andersson of Örebro University
Hospital in Sweden. This study examined the dietary intake
of fatty acids among a group of 525 Swedish men from
Örebro county in Sweden.

The study found that the more omega-3 acid, the better
your prostate cancer risk. As they stated: "Among all men,
those with the highest omega-3 docosahexaenoic acid and
total marine fatty acid intakes were 40% less likely to die
from prostate cancer."

New Study Casts Doubt on Fish Oil's Beneficial Effect on
Prostate Cancer

Now, a new study has contradicted all of the previous
work on fish oil and prostate cancer.  

This new study, published in 2013 in the Journal of the
National Cancer Institute, makes the claim that high levels
of fish oil are associated with a 77% increased risk of
aggressive prostate cancers.

This 2013 study was carried out by scientists at the Fred
Hutchinson Cancer Research Center of  Ohio State
University and was funded by the National Cancer

Here is what they found. M
en with the most omega fatty
acids in their blood had a 71% higher risk of "high grade
prostate cancer", a 44% increased risk of "low grade
prostate cancer" and a 43% higher risk of total prostate

And these risk ratios were true regardless of whether you
measured  individual omega-3 long-chain fatty acids, EPA

(eicosapentaenoic acid)
, DPA (docosapentaenoic acid )and
(docosahexaenoic acid).

We note that this study did not study the men's diet.
However, it's unlikely that the high levels of omega-3's
could have been produced without them taking

What's going on? How can research teams from respected
universities reach opposite conclusions on fish oil's effect
on prostate cancer risk?

It's not possible at this stage to reconcile the evidence for
and against omega-3 fatty acids role in prostate cancer.  
The National Health Service of the UK , therefore
recommends that men talk to their doctors before taking
fish oil supplements if they are at risk for prostate cancer.

It's worth noting what the 2013 study did
not say. It did
not advise men to stop eating fish. There is a world of
difference between eating fish and swallowing fish oil
supplements.  The study only raises a caution --a strong
caution --against super-boosting your omega-3 and
omega 6 fatty acid levels by taking supplements. The
researchers did
not advise men to stop eating fish.

We hope that other universities will do research in this
area to clarify the role fish oil plays in prostate cancer risk.

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Taking fish oil supplements is not the same as
eating fish itself in terms of your health in general
or your risk for prostate cancer.
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