What is the role of omega fatty acids in the etiology of prostate cancer?

Updated: Oct 11, 2019
  • Author: Mark A Moyad, MD, MPH; Chief Editor: Edward David Kim, MD, FACS  more...
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Answer

Omega fatty acids

Much attention has been devoted to the benefits of the omega-3 and the deleterious effects of the omega-6 long-chain unsaturated fatty acids. The marine omega-3 fatty acids are potent antioxidants that have demonstrated a beneficial effect in the development of prostate cancer, in animal and epidemiologic studies. Whether the omega-3 fatty acids themselves or the ratio between omega-3 and omega-6 is important has not been elucidated.

Some nutrient tests, such as these omega-index measurements, are promoted to suggest that a favorable alteration reduces disease risk. In fact, the value of these omega-marker tests in prostate cancer is controversial and needs further study. Some cohort studies suggest reduced risk of aggressive prostate cancer with increasing consumption of omega-3.

Other blood marker data from trials such as the Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial suggest increased risk of prostate cancer with greater omega-3 intake, which was an ancillary observation but still important follow in the future, especially in regard to the impact of supplemental omega-3 and cancer risk. [29, 30] Multiple studies of omega-3 fatty acids and heart health are being conducted, and their results and secondary endpoints should provide more clarity in the area of cancer research.

Although marine sources of omega-3 fatty acids receive a good deal of attention, perhaps because of the popularity of these dietary supplements, healthy plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids exist (eg, nuts, seeds). These also appear to be heart healthy and provide other healthy components such as fiber, which has been associated with a lower risk of prostate cancer in some studies.


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