According to a recent study published in the July 2013 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, men who consume foods high in omega-3 fatty acids are at a higher risk of prostate cancer. But can fish oil increase the risk of prostate cancer? Find out more in the following Buzzle article.
“We would not encourage any man to change their diet as a result of this study (published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, July 2013), but to speak to their doctor if they have any concerns about prostate cancer.” —Dr. Iain Frame, Director of Research at Prostate Cancer, UK.
Many nutritionist and doctors recommended diets high in omega-3 fatty acids because of their anti-inflammatory properties, which keeps a person fit and free from many health problems, such as heart diseases, diabetes, arthritis, eye problems, etc. But recent research published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute created chaos among people consuming omega-3 fatty acids. According to the study, men with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids have a greater risk of getting prostate cancer. There was tremendous response from all the parts of the world after this report, and most of them claimed it to be false and baseless. In this Buzzle article, we will discuss the study, and what the doctors from round the world say about it.
What is in the Study?
The study was conducted at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. They used data from previous studies, which were conducted in 2011, called SELECT (Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial). Out of the 35,000 men who participated in the trial, they compared 834 men who were diagnosed with prostate cancer, and 1,393 men randomly. They found that men who had the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids had a 43% greater risk of developing prostate cancer, and a 71% higher chance of developing a fatal level of prostate cancer. The higher level of polyunsaturated fatty acids, specifically EPA, DHA, and DPA in the blood plasma was associated with the higher risk. This would imply that omega-3 from any source, including fish or fish oil, may also increase the risk of developing prostate cancer.
If we take a closer look at the study, there are some important loopholes that can be found.
- The original data of this study was taken from past analysis.
- All the men were 50 years and above.
- SELECT study had a different objective and goal from this study.
- The study did not mention which source of omega-3 should be the suspect; fish oil, fish, supplements, or any other source.
- The study did not have any records of their heath status before they started the analysis.
- Only one sample was taken for analysis.
- The study lacked data whether the men who were examined started using fish oil after they were diagnosed with prostate cancer, or if they were using it since before.
What Experts have to Say about this Study
After the study was published, many experts, including doctors and scientists, have come up with their views and comments. They are not ready to throw fish oil or omega-3 fatty acids out of the diet, as it has numerous health benefits. The study, according to them, is still not clear and a lot of research needs to be conducted in this area.
Durado Brooks, M.D., M.P.H, Director of Prostate and Colorectal Cancer for the American Cancer Society, said “At most [omega-3s] may have an association, but what is that association?” he added, “If men are taking fish oil supplements, those men should look at the information and say, ‘There is a chance that I may be mildly increasing my risk,’. He further concluded, “But the association is relatively small. Men should not feel like taking fish oil is putting a gun to their head.”
Similar to the above comment, Duffy MacKay, a naturopath and Vice President of Scientific and Regulatory Affairs with the Supplement Industry Trade Group Council on Responsible Nutrition, pointed out that the study only reveals an association between omega-3 fatty acids in the blood and prostate cancer, and did not show fish oil as the cause behind the cancer. He also pointed out the flaw that the study was conducted by taking only one sample, and the general health of the people was not taken into consideration.
He added to this by saying, “There are so many problems – not with the study itself but with the conclusions batting about. If this were the case, people who study the Inuit Eskimos and Japanese fisherman, high fish eating populations, they would have found [an increase in prostate cancer]. But instead, they find the exact opposite.”
However, some experts like Joseph Maroon, M.D., a neurosurgeon at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and the author of Fish Oil: The Natural Anti-Inflammatory, are not convinced even with the association of fish oil with cancer.
A deeper and more advanced study is required to prove that fish oil increases the risk of prostate cancer. Dr. Iain Frame, director of research at Prostate Cancer UK, said, “Much larger and more complex studies will need to take place before we will fully understand how the risks of a diet high in Omega-3 balance against those benefits.”
So, if you are concerned about the relation between omega-3 and prostate cancer, then talk to your doctor before kicking it out of your diet. Moreover, if you still want to be safe, then do not exceed the recommended dosage of omega-3 in your diet, and stay updated on this research.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only and does not in any way attempt to replace the advice offered by an expert on the subject.