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Nutrition, Vitamins & Supplements for Seniors

High Level of Omega-3 in Blood of Older Men Hikes Risk of Aggressive Prostate Cancer

Study leader says beneficial effects of eating fish to prevent heart disease still outweigh any harm related to prostate cancer risk

April 25, 2011 It appears too much of a good thing can equal trouble. A new nationwide study finds that older men with the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acid that highly recommended supplement gulped my millions of senior citizens seeking better health are much more likely to develop aggressive, high-grade prostate cancer.

Billed as the largest study ever to examine the association of dietary fats and prostate cancer risk, the data of 3,400 men gathered by researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center has revealed what's good for the heart may not be good for the prostate.

Actually, it appears to increase the risk for men with the highest blood percentages of docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, by two-and-a-half-times compared to men with the lowest DHA levels.


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Conversely, the study also found that men with the highest blood ratios of trans-fatty acids which are linked to inflammation and heart disease and abundant in processed foods that contain partially hydrogenated vegetable oils had a 50 percent reduction in the risk of high-grade prostate cancer.

In addition, neither of these fats was associated with the risk of low-grade prostate cancer risk. The researchers also found that omega-6 fatty acids, which are found in most vegetable oils and are linked to inflammation and heart disease, were not associated with prostate cancer risk. They also found that none of the fats were associated with the risk of low-grade prostate cancer.

"We were stunned to see these results and we spent a lot of time making sure the analyses were correct," said Theodore M. Brasky, Ph.D., a postdoctoral research fellow in the Hutchinson Center's Cancer Prevention Program.

"Our findings turn what we know or rather what we think we know about diet, inflammation and the development of prostate cancer on its head and shine a light on the complexity of studying the association between nutrition and the risk of various chronic diseases."

The researchers undertook the study because chronic inflammation is known to increase the risk of several cancers, and the omega-3 fatty acids found primarily in fish and fish oil supplements have anti-inflammatory effects.

In contrast, other fats, such as the omega-6 fats in vegetable oil and trans-fats found in fast foods, may promote inflammation.

"We wanted to test the hypothesis that the concentrations of these fats in blood would be associated with prostate cancer risk," Brasky said.

"Specifically, we thought that omega-3 fatty acids would reduce and omega-6 and trans-fatty acids would increase prostate cancer risk."

The mechanisms behind the impact of omega-3s on risk of high-grade prostate cancer are unknown. "Besides inflammation, omega-3 fats affect other biologic processes. It may be that these mechanisms play a greater role in the development of certain prostate cancers," Brasky said. "This is certainly an area that needs more research."

Currently there is no official recommended daily allowance for omega-3 fats for adults or children, although many nutrition experts and physicians recommend 450 milligrams of omega-3 DHA per day as part of a healthy diet.

The study was based on data from the Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial, a nationwide randomized clinical trial that tested the efficacy of the drug finasteride to prevent prostate cancer.

While the trial involved nearly 19,000 men age 55 and older, the data in this analysis came from a subset of more than 3,000 of the study participants, half of whom developed prostate cancer during the course of the study and half of whom did not. The clinical trial was unique in that prostate biopsy was used to confirm the presence or absence of prostate cancer in all study participants.

Among the study participants, very few took fish oil supplements the most common non-food source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to prevent heart disease and other inflammatory conditions. The majority got omega 3s from eating fish.

So based on these findings, should men concerned about heart disease eschew fish oil supplements or grilled salmon in the interest of reducing their risk of aggressive prostate cancer? Brasky and colleagues don't think so.

"Overall, the beneficial effects of eating fish to prevent heart disease outweigh any harm related to prostate cancer risk," Brasky said.

"What this study shows is the complexity of nutrition and its impact on disease risk, and that we should study such associations rigorously rather than make assumptions," Brasky said.

These findings by Brasky and colleagues in the Hutchinson Center's Public Health Sciences Division were published online today, April 25, in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

The National Cancer Institute funded this study, which also involved researchers from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and the NCI.

At Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, our interdisciplinary teams of world-renowned scientists and humanitarians work together to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer, HIV/AIDS and other diseases. Our researchers, including three Nobel laureates, bring a relentless pursuit and passion for health, knowledge and hope to their work and to the world. www.fhcrc.org

A number of studies have linked Omega-3 with reducing the risk of AMD

Carotene that Makes Carrot Orange is in New Supplement that Slows Age-Related Macular Degeneration

New supplement introduced today appears so slow down AMD, the leading cause of blindness in elderly

June 19, 2009

Omega 3 from Fish, Nuts, Olive Oil Associated With Reduced Risk of Age-Related Blindness

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD), is the leading cause of severe vision loss among those older than 65 in the developed world.

May 11, 2009

Significant Vision Loss from Age-Related Macular Degeneration Reduced 41% by Vitamin B, Folic Acid

First means of reducing risk of AMD, leading cause of blindness in senior citizens, other than not smoking

Feb. 24, 2009

Eat Oily Fish at Least Once a Week to Protect Your Eyesight in Old Age

Consumption of oily fish at least once a week makes you 50% less likely to have wet AMD

Aug. 8, 2008

Age-Related Macular Degeneration Risk Lowered by Lutein and Zeaxanthin

Pigment found in spinach, egg yolk, corn protect the macula from blue light

Sept. 12, 2007

Omega-3 Protects Eyes from Retinopathy as in Major Causes of Blindness in Senior Citizens

Diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration may be helped

June 25, 2007

Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Fish, Vitamin D Fight Age-Related Macular Degeneration

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Pigments in Corn, Squash and other Vegetables Help Protect Against Age-Related Vision Loss

The carotenoids fight age-related macular degeneration (AMD)

August 14, 2006

Antioxidants and Zinc Reduce Risk of Age-Related Macular Degeneration Says New Report

This 2001 study now confirmed by NIH panel

May 17, 2006

Antioxidants May Reduce Risk of Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Dec. 28, 2005

Review Supports Vitamin E Dosage for Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Jan. 18, 2005



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