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Omega-3s and the Risk of Prostate Cancer


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By James J. DiNicolantonio, PharmD, Mark F. McCarty, BA, Carl J. Lavie, MD and James H. O’Keefe, MD


A recent paper by Brasky and colleagues published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute concluded that higher blood levels of omega-3s are associated with an increased risk for prostate cancer. However, these data do not indicate that eating fish or taking fish oil supplements cause prostate cancer. Also, the conclusions were based on a single omega-3 blood draw, and not on chronic omega-3 intake. Thus, we must be highly speculative of these conclusions.


Indeed, populations with a high intake of fish, such as the Japanese or the traditional Inuit, tend to have among the lowest rates in the world of prostate cancer and death from prostate cancer. Additionally, a broad amount of data from case-control and cohort studies indicates that increased omega-3 intake is not associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer, including a study from these same authors, which looked at fish oil intake instead of omega-3 levels in the blood. Additionally, much of the data even shows a reduced risk of prostate cancer with higher omega-3 intake. Because both fish oil supplementation and dietary intake of fish have been shown in a large number of impressive studies to confer cardiovascular benefits, the American Heart Association still recommends at least 1 gram of omega-3 fatty acids (from EPA/DHA) for patients with established coronary heart disease, and 2 fatty-fish meals per week in those without established heart disease.


Unfortunately, in the current era of instantaneous mass-media communication, scientific studies are sometimes inappropriately sensationalized leading to widespread confusion and misinformation. This latest article on omega-3 and prostate cancer is an example of a “fish story” that was blown out of proportion relative to its scientific merit. In summary, there is no convincing proof that omega-3s, either in the diet or via supplementation, causes prostate cancer, and thus many people would still benefit from eating fish and/or taking fish oil supplements.


Published September 17, 2013

James J. DiNicolantonio, PharmD, is with the Mid America Heart Institute at Saint Luke’s Hospital, Kansas City and Wegmans Pharmacy, Ithaca, NY.

Mark F. McCarty, BA, is with NutriGuard Research Inc., Encinitas, CA.

Carl J. Lavie, MD, is at John Ochsner Heart and Vascular Institute at the University of Queensland School of Medicine, New Orleans and Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Baton Rouge, LA.

James H. O’Keefe, MD, (above) MSMA member since 2003, is with the Mid America Heart Institute at Saint Luke’s Hospital and University of Missouri-Kansas City, Kansas City.

Editor's note: This article is part of a special series brought to you by Missouri Medicine, the Journal of the Missouri State Medical Association (MSMA). MedHelp, Missouri Medicine, and MSMA are collaborating to educate and empower health consumers by making the latest scientific studies and medical research available to the public. Learn more about MSMA and see more from Missouri Medicine.


This is a summary of the article "Do Omega-3 Fatty Acids Cause Prostate Cancer? No!" by James J. DiNicolantonio, PharmD, Mark F. McCarty, BA, Carl J. Lavie, MD & James H. O’Keefe, MD, which was originally published in the July/August 2013 issue of Missouri MedicineThe full article is available here.

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