Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids and cancer: any cause for concern?

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Abstract

Purpose of review

Recently, concerns have been raised with regard to the recommended doses of marine long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-omega-3 PUFAs) especially in relation to cancer risk and treatment. There is urgent need to clarify this point. This review considers the most recent evidence related to the potential risk of developing cancer with high LC-omega-3 PUFA intakes, and possible research strategies to better elucidate this matter.

Recent findings

The latest published recommendations have still highlighted the usefulness of an increased dietary intake of LC-omega-3 PUFAs for the prevention of some cardiovascular diseases. However, LC-omega-3 PUFAs have been related to the potential development and progression of cancer, and considerable debate exists on this issue.

Summary

The use of biomarkers reflecting the intake of LC-omega-3 PUFAs as cancer risk markers is discussed, as well as the possibility that the reported beneficial/deleterious effects may be confined to specific subpopulations on the basis of genetic, metabolic, and nutritional characteristics. Recent advances on new strategies for a safer intake of LC-omega-3 PUFAs will be considered, as their dietary sources may be contaminated by toxic/carcinogenic compounds. Potentially future directions in this important research area are also discussed.

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