Home > Cooper Updates, Vitamins and Supplements > Can Omega-3 Fatty Acids Increase the Risk of Prostate Cancer?

Can Omega-3 Fatty Acids Increase the Risk of Prostate Cancer?

Omega-3 fish oil is clinically proven to improve heart health and support brain function.

The topic of omega-3s and prostate cancer risk has been in the news lately.  The stories are based on a new study in the Journal National Cancer Institute that found that higher Omega-3 fatty acid levels were associated with increased risk of prostate cancer. After reviewing the research with well-known Omega-3 expert Bill Harris, PhD, we continue to advocate the benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids either through food or supplements.  Here’s our take on the study:

  • Omega-3 fish oil is clinically proven to improve heart health and support brain function.
  • The investigators did not test whether giving fish oil supplements (or eating more fish) increased prostate cancer risk; it looked only at blood levels of Omega-3 which can be influenced by intake, other dietary factors, metabolism and genetics.
  • The findings of this study do not mean that Omega-3’s themselves play any role in the development of prostate cancer. For example, it is possible that some component of the fish these patients was consuming was carcinogenic, in which case the Omega-3 levels were just a marker of specific fish intake.
  • It’s important to put these findings into perspective. Consider that based on the National Vital Statistics Report for deaths in the US in 2010, there we about 28,500 deaths from prostate cancer and 207,500 deaths from heart disease, a 7.3 times rate of death for heart disease.
  • Another piece of the picture is to compare prostate cancer rates in Japan vs. the US. According to the World Foundation of Urology, prostate cancer incidence in North America and Northern Europe is 63 per 100,000 white men and 102 per 100,000 African-American men. In Japan the rate is 10 per 100,000 men. Since the Japanese typically eat about eight times more Omega-3 fatty acids than Americans do and their blood levels are twice as high, you’d think their prostate cancer risk would be much higher, but the opposite is the case.

In conclusion, the benefit of fish oils strongly outweigh the possible risks and we would not encourage men to change their diet as a result of this study, but to speak to their doctor if they have any concerns about prostate cancer.

Read the full response to study from Bill Harris, PhD.

  1. Jane
    July 15, 2013 at 4:21 pm

    Thank you for addressing this issue. It’s been a concern for my husband, and I said we’d wait to see what The Cooper Center says about it. You’re my dependable resource!

    • July 19, 2013 at 1:40 pm

      We’re happy you and your husband found the information helpful and can count on us to provide dependable recommendations.

  2. Jeffrey J. Brown
    July 16, 2013 at 4:27 pm

    I found the following info, which seems interesting.

    Does fish oil cause prostate cancer? Whether it does or not, the most recent study is not suited to answer this.


    *Fish consumption and prostate cancer risk: a review and meta-analysis (November, 2010)



    And, As noted, A topic not addressed in the recent fish oil & prostate cancer study:


    Higher blood omega-3s associated with lower risk of premature death among older adults


    • July 19, 2013 at 1:47 pm

      Hi Jeffrey,
      We’re happy you found the information in our blog post useful. We appreciate your interest in the subject and will continue to keep you informed as the science evolves.

  3. Chris
    July 19, 2013 at 11:44 am

    Very helpful commentary which puts the matter into perspective. I wish others were an analytical and objective as you. I also agree with the prior comment. I have been waiting for the Cooper Clinic to provide that context in an unbiased way. Thanks for being a trusted source.

    • July 19, 2013 at 1:44 pm

      Hi Chris,
      We’re happy to provide our recommendations and be viewed as a trusted resource. Thank you for your feedback!

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