What? Omega-3s Cause Cancer?

Omega-3 fatty acids get a lot of positive press. They are credited with delivering many health benefits, including reducing heart disease, avoiding diabetes, slowing the aging process and fighting off Alzheimer ’s disease. Just when you thought it was safe to pop that omega-3 pill, new research is published that connects omega-3 supplements with cancer.

First, this was a single study. Second, the cancer that was linked with omega-3 consumption is prostate cancer, so that lets some of us off the hook right away. But the correlation does cause some concern.

The research was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. It tracked men who took omega-3 supplements derived from marine sources. The research found that men with high omega-3 blood levels have a 43% higher risk of prostate cancer than men with lower levels.

Prostate cancer is not a treat, but many doctors now believe that all men will eventually develop prostate cancer, if they live long enough. It’s just that most men die from other causes before prostate cancer begins. Some forms of prostate cancer are so slow-growing that many times doctors advise no treatment at all, just periodic evaluations.

So what does this mean? There are other sources of omega-3 fatty acids, like flax seeds and walnuts. The research seems to connect fish oil with the cancer increase, so these alternatives are worth considering. But if you have a family history of prostate cancer, this is a good topic for discussion with your doctor during your next check-up.

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