I want to reassure you that I’m not obsessed with prostate cancer!  There just happens to be a lot of conflicting news about supplement use either preventing or increasing the risk of developing it these days.

This latest study made big news over the weekend.  Here’s a good overview by Stephanie Verkoeyen on a site called Science Recorder:

Researchers find link between fish oil and higher prostate cancer risk

The increased risk of developing high-grade prostate cancer is particularly important as these tumors have a greater chance of being fatal

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Scientists at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center have confirmed a link between high omega-3 fatty acids concentrations in the blood and increased risk of prostate cancer. This is the second study to make this connection.

Published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute earlier this week, the latest findings indicate that high concentrations of fatty acids derived from fish and fish-oil supplements – EPA, DPA and DHA – resulted in a 71 percent risk increase of developing high-grade prostate cancer, a 44 percent increase in developing low-grade prostate cancer, and an overall 43 percent risk increase for all prostate cancers. The increased risk of developing high-grade prostate cancer is particularly important as these tumors have a greater chance of being fatal.

The same Fred Hutch research team reported similar findings back in 2011. This study confirms their previous results, as well as confirming results from a large European study. The replication of these findings in two large studies indicates a need for further research into possible mechanisms.

Alan Kristal, senior author of the study, noted that use of nutritional supplements can potentially be harmful, and should be taken with caution. A recent analysis, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, examined the benefits of omega-3 supplementation in battling cardiovascular diseases. Combining data from 20 different studies, the results indicated no reduction in overall mortality, heart attacks, or strokes.

The current study analyzed data and specimens from men participating in the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT), which is a large randomized, placebo-controlled trial that tests whether selenium and vitamin E reduced prostate cancer risk. The selected group consisted of 834 men diagnosed with incident, primary prostate cancers, 156 of which were high-grade cancer, along with a control group of 1,393 men selected at random from remaining SELECT participants.

Corresponding author Theodore Brasky did note that, while their results do link fatty acids with prostate cancer, the results don’t address whether omega-3′s play a harmful role in prostate cancer prognosis.

Both of the Fred Hutch studies were surprising in that they contradict the range of positive benefits long associated with omega-3 fatty acids based on their anti-inflammatory properties, which plays a role in the growth and development of many cancers. The conversion of omega-3’s into compounds may cause damage to cells and DNA, but whether this impacts cancer risk is unknown.

These are big numbers and news has it that some people that have been instructed to take fish oil supplements in the past are panicking.  The good news?  My understanding is this study is built on a questionable foundation and has not be verified or replicated.  But it does point-out possible risk for those who go overboard on the supplement thing.
Chances are taking a few capsules a day won’t hurt you.  But it may not help much, either.  Such is the way with supplements; they rarely seem to make much difference in the end.
I will follow-up as more information becomes available.
Feel good and keep smiling!  Pat


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