Omega-3 Oils: Good for Breasts,
Bad for Prostates?

January 16th, 2013 by Holly Cornish

Many moms of the 1950s and ’60s forced their kids to swallow a daily dose of cod liver oil. Although the fishy smell and taste probably didn’t make them popular with their kids, they were doing the tykes a world of good.

These days, of course, millions of us take fish oil (which, mercifully, tastes a lot better than the stuff that was available in the 1950s). Others prefer fresh flaxseed oil, which is also rich in omega-3s.

And now a new study indicates these oils may be useful in treating or preventing breast cancer. But at the same time, another study casts doubt on whether omega-3-rich oils are a good idea for prostate cancer. Let’s take a look and see what’s what. . .

Continued below. . .

Old Mice “Cheat Death” with
New Harvard Breakthrough

    In a landmark study that sounds like science fiction, a professor at Harvard Medical School regenerated the brains of aging mice by turning on a switch inside their cells.

The mice, who were the equivalent of elderly men, had all the classic signs of old age: Their brains were smaller… they were going blind… they stopped having sex… their hair was gray… and they couldn’t find their way through a maze or remember where their food was.

But when this Harvard professor hit the switch in their cells, the tissues and organs in their body — including their brains — started to regenerate and grow back to normal size.

Even a slight change in brain size would have been a miracle… but what happened was even more remarkable. The gray hair was gone. So was the poor eyesight and shrunken brains. In fact, there was nothing left that could distinguish them as “old.”1

And here’s the best part: This “age-reversing switch” can be turned on in us, too. Clinical studies confirm the effectiveness of this therapy in men and women. In fact, the discovery that led to the breakthrough won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2009.

That means we now have the ability to repair our own aging brains… reignite our flagging sex drives… correct our failing eyesight… and sharpen our minds as if we were 21 again.

To tap into the power of this remarkable age-reversing switch so you can keep doing everything you want for longer than you ever thought possible, just click here now.


1Horner J, Maratos-Flier E, Depinho R, et. al. “Telomerase reactivation reverses tissue degeneration in aged telomerase-deficient mice.” Nature Jan 2011;469(7328):102-6.

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, the three types of protective omega-3 oils are:

  • Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) — found in English walnuts, in some types of beans, and in canola, soybean, flaxseed/linseed, and olive oils
  • Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) — found in seaweed and cold water, fatty fish
  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) — found in mackerel, salmon, trout and other cold water, fatty fish

Omega-3s help prevent heart disease, reduce high blood pressure, relieve pain and inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis, and even ease emotional depression. But, believe or not, they do much more.

Scientific studies show these natural oils may play a role in reducing breast cancer risk.

What’s more, they may also help breast cancer patients heal.

According to a Science Daily report, researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, WA reached this conclusion based on results of their Vitamins and Lifestyle (VITAL) cohort study.

A team led by public health scientist Emily White, Ph.D, collected information about non-vitamin, non-mineral supplement use from 35,016 postmenopausal women who had no history of breast cancer.

880 cases of breast cancer developed in these women during six years of follow up.

But the researchers were excited to find that regular use of fish oil supplements appeared to produce a 32 percent reduction in the risk of breast cancer!

This was the first study to demonstrate the connection between fish oil supplements and a reduction in breast cancer. But previous studies do suggest that omega-3 fatty acids can help women maintain healthy breast tissue.

In a study published in the June 2005 issue of Breast Cancer Research, researchers found that when patients took omega-3 fatty acids in combination with the cancer drug propofol, cancer cell death increased by a whopping 40 percent!

What’s more, the omega-3 acids seemed to play a role in reducing the spread of cancer cells by up to 50 percent.

While these results sound promising for women… there’s still some debate about whether omega-3 oils have the same positive anti-cancer effects in men…

Maybe it’s that pesky “Y” chromosome

    The same Seattle, WA research center that found a positive association between omega-3 fats and breast cancer risk reduction found something different when it comes to prostate cancer.

The 2011 study results published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that men with higher DHA levels were two-and-a-half times more likely to have an aggressive form of prostate cancer.

What’s more, the team found that men with the highest amounts of trans-fatty acids in their blood appeared to face LESS risk of developing prostate cancer! Trans fats, in case you don’t know, are now considered deadly and we’re all told to avoid them. So this recent finding is very odd indeed.

Brasky’s team emphasized the need to continue researching the relationships before reaching definitive conclusions. The Hutchinson researchers that focused on breast cancer also emphasized the need for continued investigation into their positive findings.

Lead researcher Theodore M. Brasky, Ph.D. and colleagues at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center based their conclusions on data gathered from 3,461 participants in the Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial.

They wanted to see if high blood concentrations of omega-6 could be linked to developing prostate cancer.

Just to be clear—it’s been proven repeatedly that omega-3 fats protect your body from inflammation, which has been associated with increased cancer risk. In contrast, omega-6 fats have been linked to increased inflammation.

But this group’s findings turned these assumptions upside down!

It’s important to note that the study focused on the DHA form of omega-3 fatty acids. This means the other two types were not linked to a possible increase in prostate cancer risk.

The people who participated in this study were not a “random” sample. The study was conducted ONLY on males and only on males over the age of 55. What’s more, the roughly 3,400 men in this study were just a subset of about 19,000 men taking part in a study of the drug finasteride, prescribed to prevent prostate cancer.

Of the 3,400 men in the fatty acid study, half developed prostate cancer while the study was in progress. That’s a very high cancer rate.

Long story short, this was not a typical group selected from the whole population. The researchers said very few of the men in the study even took fish oil supplements. Those who got any omega-3 in their diet at all got it from eating fish — most likely salmon, I’d guess.

Right off the bat, this makes me wonder how much mercury those fish eaters were taking in. Personally, I don’t eat a lot of omega-3-rich fish for that very reason. I take a liquid fish oil supplement (not the capsules) which the manufacturer claims is completely uncontaminated by mercury.

I also wonder how many of these men were taking the drug finasteride (since that’s what the main study was all about). The drug could easily have played a role in the results. As could the lack of the drug, in those participants who DIDN’T take it.

This is an odd result and I don’t put too much confidence in it until more is known. A single study isn’t the last word, especially in view of all the positive studies supporting the benefits of omega-3 oils. I supplement with fish oil myself, and I’m going to continue to do so, considering all its other proven benefits.

It’s well established that you need to strike a balance among all the different types of omega-3 oils — ALA, EPA, and DHA. In addition, some authorities say it’s important to supplement with a fourth — gamma linolenic acid or GLA—which plays an essential role in reducing inflammation and is NOT available in fish, walnuts, olive oil, etc.

The best source of GLA is evening primrose oil. I take evening primrose oil capsules myself — along with fish oil — in hopes of achieving the optimum balance among all these different oils. Just to repeat: There’s persuasive evidence that GLA plays a vital role — and you can’t get it from fish or flax.

In short, you don’t want to supplement with DHA in isolation, and if you take fish oil, you’re getting EPA along with DHA. I wish this were all black and white, but things seldom are. The study of nutrition is in its infancy and new findings are coming out every day.

I do NOT recommend that men throw out their fish oil or flaxseed oil, much less start eating trans fats or increasing their intake of omega-6 fats (the typical American diet is already loaded with omega-6s; you don’t need more).


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Kindest regards,

Lee Euler, Publisher


Resources:American Association for Cancer Research (2010, July 8). Fish oil may reduce risk of breast cancer. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100708071349.htm

Brasky, T. et al. Cancer Risk: Results From the Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial . Am. J. Epidemiol. (2011) doi: 10.1093/aje/kwr027 First published online: April 24, 2011. Retrieved from
http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2011/04/19/aje.kwr027.abstract

Gamonski, W. 2011. Omega-3 & breast cancer. Livestrong,com. Retrieved from
http://www.livestrong.com/article/394182-omega-3-breast-cancer/

University of Maryland Medical Center. 2009. Omega-3 fatty acids factsheets. Retrieved from
http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/omega-3-000316.htm

Woodward, K. 2011, April 25. A high percentage of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood is linked to an increased risk of aggressive prostate cancer. Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Retrieved from
http://www.fhcrc.org/about/ne/news/2011/04/25/omega-3-fatty-acid-
aggressive-prostate-cancer.html

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