Can fish oils increase prostate cancer risk?

A recent study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute indicated an increased risk of prostate cancer for men who used Omega-3s. This has raised concerns about how safe fish oils are for men.

Many experts have indicated that this study is flawed. Only plasma Omega-3 was measured; these levels really only reflect the Omega-3 consumption of your last meal and are not a true reflection of your Omega-3 consumption.

According to Dr James O’Keefe (St Luke’s Mid-American Heart Institute ), the study only showed miniscule differences in Omega-3 blood levels. The Omega-3 levels found in patients’ blood was the equivalent of having no fish intake or fish oil supplementation. Dr O’Keefe explains that previous studies indicated that Omega-3 actually has a protective effect against prostate cancer. He says that higher Omega-3 levels have consistently and strongly correlated with lower risks of cardiovascular mortality.

Dr Harry Comber, director of the National Cancer Registry in Ireland, said he was loath to give advice to patients to take action on the basis of a single study.

“People should not change their behaviour based on a single study. I would take it with a little bit of caution. It is suggestive but not definitive one way or the other.”

Eamonn Brady, pharmacist from Whelehans Pharmacy, says the best way to get Omega-3 is naturally through your diet. Omega-3 fatty acids are primarily found in oily fish such as salmon, fresh tuna, mackerel, herring, and sardines. We should eat two portions of fish per week, one of them oily. You should only use omega 3 supplements if you do not eat sufficient oily fish.

Eamonn would advise that men who have a family history of prostate cancer or who are at higher risk of prostate cancer (as indicated by blood tests ) are best to avoid fish oil supplements.

The advice in this article is the opinion of Eamonn Brady (pharmacist ); consult with your doctor before making any changes. Whelehans Pharmacy, 38 Pearse Street, Mullingar (opposite the Greville Arms Hotel ). Tel (044 ) 9334591 or see


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