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The findings of a new review suggest that dietary omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil fight prostate cancer on several levels. Although this is not the first study to show a positive relationship between fish oil and the growth and progression of prostate cancer, it does, according to the authors, “underscore the potential of fish oil in modulating the clinical course of human prostate cancer through the immune system.”
Immunotherapy, or utilization of the immune system to repair, enhance, or stimulate the body’s natural immune responses to fight cancer, is a rapidly growing field of research. In addressing the challenge of prostate cancer, scientists have developed or are developing various immunotherapeutic approaches (e.g., Provenge, checkpoint therapies). However, natural substances also may have potential, including omega-3 fatty acids.
How can omega-3 fatty acids fight prostate cancer?
In a recent University of California study, a research team explored the idea that a fish oil-based diet would inhibit infiltration of immune system cells called tumor-associated macrophages, which play a significant role in the development of prostate cancer. They tested their hypothesis using mice in which prostate cancer tumors were grown. Half the mice were fed a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil) and the rest were given omega-6 fatty acids (corn oil).
Tumor volumes were significantly smaller in the mice fed the fish oil diet. The animals fed fish oil had lower levels of factors associated with cancer growth and progression, including markers for M1 and M2 macrophages, tumor necrosis factor alpha, interleukin-6, interleukin-10, and the chemokine CCL-2. When the team conducted in vitro experiments, the findings were similar.
The authors concluded that their findings highlight the “potential of fish oil in modulating the clinical course of human prostate cancer through the immune system.” Although further studies are needed to better identify the role of fish oil in inhibiting factors involved in prostate cancer, now is the time to include more omega-3 fatty acids in your diet, given the findings of this study and previous research showing a lower risk of prostate cancer associated with greater intake of omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil.
Good sources of dietary omega-3 fatty acids include wild salmon, tuna, herring, sardines, and mackerel as well as high quality fish oil supplements. It’s important to choose fish and supplements from unpolluted sources. If you don’t regularly eat fish two to three times a week, you should consider an omega-3 supplement, which also should be made from unpolluted sources and be free of unnecessary additives. Check out a guide to buying omega-3 fish oil supplements.