Love Fish? Experts Say it Increases Your Prostate Cancer Risk

By on July 14, 2013
Evidence shows that omega-3 fatty acids are good for lowering you risk of heart disease and Alzheimer’s, but now a new study says it’s not all rainbows and sunshine–it could possibly increase your risk of prostate cancer.

The study, which was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, shows that those who consumed high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids derived from marine food were 43 percent more likely to develop prostate cancer.

Nearly 250,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year.

“This study confirms previous reports of increased prostate cancer risk among men with high blood concentrations of LC?-3PUFA [omega-3 fatty acids],” says the study’s authors. “The consistency of these findings suggests that these fatty acids are involved in prostate tumorigenesis. Recommendations to increase LC?-3PUFA [omega-3 fatty acids] intake should consider its potential risks.”

Details of the Prostate Cancer Study

The study, which first started in 2012, examined the levels of omega-3 fatty acids in men selected to participate in the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial. 834 men diagnosed with prostate cancer and 1393 randomly-selected men participated in the study, including 156 men whose cancer was considered “high-grade.” The participants’ dietary habits were not taken into consideration.

After measuring the amount of omega-3 fatty acids present in their blood, researchers made a startling discovery: Those with the highest concentrations of omega-3s faced the highest risk of prostate cancer.

The overwhelming majority did not take fish oil supplements, so researchers say it isn’t a pill issue–but what is it?

“We have this tendency to talk about good foods and bad foods, good nutrients and bad nutrients,” says Dr. Theodore Brasky, the study’s lead author and research assistant professor at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center. He goes on to explain the nutrients in fish could cause dangerous levels of inflammation, something that researchers may have discredited in the past. In turn, eating too much fish rich in omega-3s could increase free radical damage, which some experts believe increases a person’s risk of cancer.

But does this mean it’s time to lay off the fish? According to Kurtis Frank, lead research editor of, definitely not.

“This study and no other studies in existence can currently be used to say that fish oil causes prostate cancer,” says Frank. “If anything, this study begets a plethora of questions in regards to the relationship between prostate cancer and omega-3 but proves nothing.” This statement is compounded by the fact that researchers did not control the participants’ dietary intake, so other factors that could influence prostate cancer outcomes, such as eating other foods that may increase a person’s prostate cancer risk, could not be accounted for.

In the meanwhile, researchers suggest that this study heightens the need for men to watch their diet–just one wrong move could increase their prostate cancer risk. It’s easy to keep your risk low, however: Exercise and eating a healthy, balanced diet low in trans fatty acids is good enough for most men.

Readers: Will this study change your eating habits? Why or why not?

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