Study claiming a link between omega-3s and prostate cancer has limitations

There is evidence that fish oil, a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, either as supplements or through increased dietary intake, can at anti-inflammatory doses, reduce symptoms in rheumatoid arthritis and reduce cardiovascular morbidity and mortality.

However community concern has been raised following the results of a study  published last week claiming a link between omega-3s and prostate cancer in men.

Professor Gary Wittert, Director of the Freemasons Foundation Centre for Men’s Health, has commented that there are limitations of this study which need to be highlighted. This has been reinforced by Professor Michael James, Rheumatology Unit, Royal Adelaide Hospital, an international expert on the health benefits of omega-3s. First, the range of plasma omega-3s reported in the study suggest that  “This is just an average group of blokes, most of whom probably don’t eat fish or take supplements” , says Professor James.  “The levels are not those we see in people who are avid fish eaters or who take fish oil.”

Professor James also highlighted that the total omega-3s in the no cancer versus cancer group were 4.48 vs 4.66 % of total fatty acids. “This is a trivial difference but it is statistically significant because they had more than 2000 subjects.”

Finally the other points to be made are that this is only an association, it does not accord with most other epidemiological studies, and most importantly their analyses were not adjused for known prostate cancer predictors.

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