Fatty Acids and Prostate Cancer Risk



News of a just-published study titled “Plasma Phospholipid Fatty Acids and Prostate Cancer Risk in the SELECT Trial” has been covered in the mainstream media over the last several days, leading to many online discussions and quite a bit of confusion. In this video, Dr. Deanna Minich and Dr. Jeffrey Bland discuss what is known about this research by Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and also how the information should be put into context when considering the broad spectrum of information that is available about essential fatty acids.

Study Abstract:


Video References:

1. Willett WC. Specific fatty acids and risks of breast cancer and prostate cancer: dietary intake. Am J Clin Nutr. 1997;66(6 Suppl):1557S-1563S.

2. Leiztmann MF, Stampfer MJ, Michaud DS, Augustsson K, Colditz GC, Willett WC, Giovannucci EL. Dietary intake of n-3 and n-6 fatty acids and the risk of prostate cancer. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004;80(1):204-216.

3. Hamazaki K, Higashihara E, Terachi T, Takada H, Matsuda T, et al. The effect of eicosapentaenoic acid on prostate-specific antigen. In Vivo. 2006;20(3):397-401.

4. Niijima I, Koiso K. Incidence of prostatic cancer in Japan and Asia. Scand J Urol Nephrol Suppl. 1980;55:17-21.

5. Katanoda K, Matsuda T, Matsuda A, Shibata A, Nishino Y, et al. An updated report of the trends in cancer incidence and mortality in Japan. Jpn J Clin Oncol. 2013;43(5):492-507.


Additional References:

1. Nguyen EV. Cancer in Asian American males: epidemiology, causes, prevention, and early detection. Asian Am Pac Isl J Health. 2003 Summer-Autumn;10(2):86-99.

2. Marks LS, Kojima M, Demarzo A, Heber D, Bostwick DG, et al. Prostate cancer in native Japanese and Japanese-American men: effects of dietary differences on prostatic tissue. Urology. 2004;64(4):765-771.

3. Parks SY, Wilkens LR, Henning SM, Le Marchand L, Gao K, et al. Circulating fatty acids and prostate cancer risk in nested case-control study: the Multiethnic Cohort. Cancer Causes Control. 2009;20(2):211-223.

4. Maskarinec G, Noh JJ. The effect of migration on cancer incidence among Japanese in Hawaii. Ethn Dis. 2004 Summer;14(3):431-439.



9 Comments On “Fatty Acids and Prostate Cancer Risk”

  1. Thank you for these timely and valuable comments!!!

  2. Thank you so much Dr. Bland and Dr. Minich for posting this important video with your insights…it will allay a lot of anxiety that’s been caused by the study already!!

  3. Nicely done as always.

  4. David S. Jones, MD, President IFM

    Dear Drs. Bland and Minich,
    Your video response to the paper published this week in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute on omega-3 fatty acids and prostate cancer done at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center not only is timely, but clearly focuses on one of the important areas of expertise that the Personalized Lifestyle Medicine Institute (PLMI) brings to the public arena of health and lifestyle. These epidemiological reports are newsworthy, but without the perspective that informed knowledge, such as this response by PLMI to the Hutchinson Cancer Center report, often faulty conclusions are drawn. Your report is certainly an important service to the public discourse on the elements of healthy lifestyle practices. Thank you for your work in this area.

    • Drs. Bland and Minich, I appreciate you taking the time to address this study and your efforts to shine the light on the value and concerns of their conclusions. As you know, the media play out on a study like this often leads to more confusion. Your ability to keep the relevant studies on the horizon helps to see the bigger picture and this study surely isn’t an end point in this area of interest. I appreciate your comments regarding the possible contamination of the fish and the impact that may have on metabolic detoxification. What do you think about the form of testing that they used in the study? My understanding is that the serum levels are often influenced by the previous 24 hours of exposure and do not serve an appropriate association with RBC fatty acid levels or more effective methods of assessment. What is your opinion on the testing methodologies used here and the conclusions they are drawing from that data?

      • Dr. Hughes,

        Thank you for your comment and thought-provoking questions regarding the validity of this study. Indeed, as you mentioned, there are many aspects to consider in assessing the strength of the findings by Brasky et al. In particular, you alluded to the quality of the fish consumed by the subjects in the trial and whether the methylmercury burden might have been implicated in study findings. There is increasing evidence to support the concept of environmental contaminants having a distinct role in perturbations of metabolic pathways that would be implicated in cancer. Additionally, the ability of an individual to properly detoxify toxins through hepatic and intestinal enzyme systems is essential for reducing overall toxic burden. As we both know, there is a degree of variability between individuals with respect to these enzyme systems that may lead to less than optimal metabolic biotransformation of these compounds. Hence, the need for a personalized approach to maximize these detoxification pathways with lifestyle medicine.

        Furthermore, as we mentioned in the video, this study needs to be compared against the weight of the prior existing evidence. There is considerable evidence in favor of increasing fish intake for prostate cancer risk reduction. We agree that consumption of low methylmercury-containing fish may be further advised to reduce toxin burden.

        Finally, you questioned the methodology, which is a valid concern. Regardless of the laboratory test used (i.e., plasma PLs or RBCs), what is essential is to extrapolate any research measurement into clinical significance. As Dr. Harris and others have pointed out, the between group differences were “very small and would have no meaning clinically” (quote from Dr. Harris).

        We hope that these points address your questions.

  5. Nice point Dr. Hughes. Thank you for posting to FB Dr. Hyman.

  6. The question I would ask is who gains the most from the conclusions the media is drawing from this study- Omega 3 bad, Omega 6 good. This study was underwritten in part by NCI and their major donor, Ronald McDonald House (also see Pat McDonald Co-chair NCI Ambassadors and former NCI Ambassador Executive Director). I would suggest a study to determine to what extent funding from the major dietary suppliers of Omega 6 is causative, in a finding that Omega 3 is associated with higher incidences of prostate cancer.

  7. Your method of telling the whole thing in this article is in fact nice, all can simply know
    it, Thanks a lot.

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