Omega-3 fatty acids may help cancer patients, but risk of prostate cancer looms

Using omega-3 fatty acids in anti-tumor medications may improve cancer treatment said a new study by researchers at the University Hospitals of Leicester in the United Kingdom, notwithstanding the fact that a year ago another study linked these acids to an increased risk of prostate cancer.

ucl cancer instituteThe study, published in the Journal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (JPEN), examined 50 patients with advanced pancreatic cancer.

Patients were given 1,000 mg of gemcitabine weekly followed by up to 100 grams of omega-3 rich lipid emulsion for three weeks followed by a rest week and the experiment continued for up to six cycles, progression, unacceptable toxicity, patient request, or death.

The study found evidence of activity in response and disease stabilization rates, reduction in liver metastasis volume, and improved quality of life scores in patients.

While this is the first study to use omega-3 fatty acids with a chemotherapy agent in a cancer setting, the researchers believe the results are encouraging enough to warrant further investigation in a randomized phase III trial.

However, another study a year ago by researchers in the US found a link between omega-3 fatty acids and an increased risk of prostate cancer.

Their study, published the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, looked at blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids in some of the men enrolled in the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT) of more than 35,000 men over age 50 in the US, Puerto Rico, and Canada.

The researchers compared 834 men with diagnosed prostate cancer to another group of 1,393 men selected randomly from all 35,000 participants. The researchers expected to find a protective factor from the presence of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood.

Instead, they found that those with the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids had a 43% higher risk of developing prostate cancer, and a 71% higher chance of developing high-grade prostate cancer, which is more likely to be fatal. Previous studies found similar results.

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