Does Fish Oil Really Cause Prostate Cancer?

Posted on 7/18/2013 by Dr. Adrian den Boer
Categories: cancer, heart disease, supplements

Have you read the latest and greatest popular study that fish oil is linked to cancer? This controversial study has hit major newsstands hard, as reflected in the amount of questions from my patients curious to know if the study rings true.
As a physician and also as a researcher, I am frustrated by headlines like these, because it undermines and destroys dozens of research years and findings that have gone before it. For instance, epidemiologic studies dating back to the 1970’s were among the first to suggest that fish oil may be beneficial in preventing disease (Bang, Dyerber & Nielsen, 1971).
Yet, here comes one study that says one thing and it makes major headlines. Folks, it’s time to put this study in context.
This is merely a correlation study, meaning there is a correlation between fish oil and prostate cancer. However, it doesn’t study the mechanism of action or the relationship of the correlation, and it doesn’t mean that one causes the other. It’s like claiming that crossing a street causes strokes. There may be a link, but it doesn’t mean that there is a causative relationship.
However, the facts are still there, so let’s dig into this.
1) The benefits of wild-caught vs. farm-raised salmon are not the same.
More than 90% of salmon consumption is farm-raised, which is salmon loaded with pesticides, artificial colors, fillers, and food that is totally foreign to the fish. They don’t receive any exercise, and yes, they do contain heavy metals. This is being consumed in great proportion by a society who is already under a huge burden from a poor lifestyle. Many of these fat-soluble toxins stay in the body without being properly detoxified, which can lead to disease and cancer.
Consuming wild-caught, fresh salmon delivers a whole different variety of nutrients, fatty acids, and much less toxins from the conditions of farm-raised salmon.
For example, in a Swedish study, researchers investigated the effect of dietary fish intake amongst 6,272 men who were followed-up for 30 years. This study reported that men who ate no fish had a two–three-fold increase in the risk of developing prostate cancer compared with those who consumed large amounts of fish in their diet. (Terry, et al., 2001).
2) The study did not control for the subjects’ diets.
The study mentions that: “Because the study did not query the men about their diets, it’s difficult to tell whether the men were consuming other healthy foods as well” (Groden, 2013).
This is a huge missing component, folks! Because the study did not control the subjects’ diets, it is very difficult to tell what other factors (food, environmental toxins, lifestyle, etc.) were involved with the correlation to prostate cancer.
3) A poor quality fish oil supplement is not the same as a high quality fish oil supplement.
The study states that omega-3 fatty acids may increase oxidative damage to prostate cells.
This may be true for poor quality fish oil supplements found in most commercial stores. With the supplement industry mostly unregulated, many of these fish oil supplement companies only test for the bare minimum of chemicals that the FDA mandates, which is nowhere near good enough. Many of them contain additional harmful chemicals like heavy metals and toxins, which greatly contribute to other health risks more than prostate cancer alone.
In addition to delivering a load of chemicals, depending on how these supplements were handled and stored, they can oxidize easily and cause more harm than good.

However, as studies over and over have shown, a pure, high quality fish oil supplement tested for oxidation and heavy metals is highly anti-inflammatory and absolutely has a place in most everyone’s diet in the modern world.
For instance, one study shows that intake of fish oil (EPA + DHA) for 26 weeks can alter gene expression to a more anti-inflammatory and anti-atherogenic status (Bouwens, et. al, 2009). 
What is a high quality supplement? In general, these are the stringent standards that Nature’s Remedies upholds for each supplement, including a 3-page report regarding every aspect of cultivation, preparation, testing, etc. for each.
Nature’s Remedies carries a fantastic fish oil supplement called Max EPA. I recommend it to every one of my patients, including prostate cancer patients, for the incredible anti-inflammatory benefits on organs like the prostate.
Since we know inflammation fuels cancer, its net benefit can only be positive!
Just be sure to watch the expiration date, store it in a cool place in an opaque container, and make sure you’re able to digest and utilize fully. If you find you burp after taking the supplement, than you don’t have enough hydrochloric acid to break it down and absorb it. In this case, taking Metagest can help facilitate both of these functions.
Bang HO, Dyerberg J, Nielsen AB. Plasma lipid and lipoprotein pattern in Greenlandic West-coast Eskimos. The Lancet. 1971;1(7710):1143–1145.
Bouwens, M., Rest, O., Dellschaft, N., Bromhaar, M., de Groot, L., Gelijnse, J., Muller, M., Afman, L. Fish-oil supplementation induces anti-inflammatory gene expression profiles in human blood mononuclear cells. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 16 May 2009.
Groden, Claire. Hold the Salmon: Omega-3 Fatty Acids Linked to Higher Risk of Cancer. Time Magazine. 11 July 2013.
Terry P, Lichtenstein P, Feychting M, Ahlbom A, Wolk A. Fatty fish consumption and risk of prostate cancer. Lancet 2001;357:1764-6. 
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