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Omega-3 Fatty Acids Lead to Increased Risk of Prostate Cancer?

According to a new study, high levels of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids in the blood may lead to an increased risk of developing an aggressive form of prostate cancer. On the flip side, however, processing high levels of particularly unhealthy trans-fatty acids may in turn lower the risk of prostate cancer.

In order to come to their conclusions, researchers analyzed data from a U.S. study comprised of over 3,400 men. In this analysis, they discovered that those men with the highest blood percentages of decosahexaenoic acid (DHA) were nearly two-and-a-half times more likely to develop aggressive prostate cancer than those with the lowest levels of DHA.

Further, the study noted that the risk of aggressive prostate cancer was nearly 50 percent less in men with the highest levels of trans-fatty acids being processed.

It’s worth noting, however, that the study showed no real connection between prostate cancer risk and omega-6 fatty acids that are found in most vegetable oils, directly.

"We were stunned to see these results, and we spent a lot of time making sure the analyses were correct," Theodore M. Brasky, a postdoctoral research fellow in Hutchinson's Cancer Prevention Program, said in a Hutchinson news release.

"Our findings turn what we know -- or rather what we think we know -- about diet, inflammation and the development of prostate cancer on its head and shine a light on the complexity of studying the association between nutrition and the risk of various chronic diseases.

"Overall, the beneficial effects of eating fish to prevent heart disease outweigh any harm related to prostate cancer risk," Brasky said. "What this study shows is the complexity of nutrition and its impact on disease risk, and that we should study such associations rigorously, rather than make assumptions."

This study appeared in the April 25 online edition of the American Journal of Epidemiology.

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