Fish oil use has exploded over the last few years. With claims of many health benefits including heart health, brain health, joint pain, etc. also come some health concerns. There are questions arising on the increased risk of prostate cancer when using fish oil. Is it really so?
A study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute checked the omega-3s levels in blood among men participating in the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT), which was a trial looking at whether selenium or/and vitamin E would lower prostate cancer risks. The study showed that high levels fish oil in blood increased the risk of prostate cancer by 43%, and the risk for aggressive prostate cancer by 71%. However, this study did not take the participants’ diets into consideration, so it’s unclear whether the high levels of fish oil were due to food or supplements.
But why is fish oil and prostate cancer related?
It’s still not fully understood. One possible explanation would be that some unknown properties of omega-3s, when in excessive levels, may result in oxidative stress, causing DNA damage.
Just like other supplements, moderation is key. It’s always a better idea to get what your body needs from foods. Keep a balanced diet and that wouldn’t be a big issue. If you really need to take fish oil, discuss it with your doctor to weigh the benefits and risks and determine the acceptable amount that would be safe for your body.
Besides the relation between fish oil and prostate cancer, what about other possible risk factors? While prostate cancer can occur in anyone, many factors would put some people at greater risk.
Whatever the relation between fish oil and prostate cancer is, treatments are important. After you are diagnosed with prostate cancer, the doctor will stage where the cancer is and work with you to come up with a treatment plan. The good news is prostate cancer is slow growing and depending on the stage, treatments may not need to be overly aggressive, which include:
The doctor may opt to just watch the cancer and wait on treatment until it shows that it may be growing or spreading. This is an option for older men or men who have other health conditions.
Your doctor will monitor the cancer with blood tests and a rectal exam at 6 month intervals. If things start to look like they need further treatment, the doctor will discuss your options with you.
If prostate cancer shows signs of spreading, the doctor will offer surgery. When they open things up they will check the lymph nodes for the spread of cancer. If the cancer has not spread to the lymph nodes, the prostate is removed. If the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, the prostate will not be removed and the surgery stopped.
If your cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, your doctor will suggest a course of radiation and/or chemotherapy to kill off cancer cells.
Hormone therapy is done when the cancer has spread and cannot be cured with surgery or radiation therapy. They can either remove the testicles to stop the production of male hormones or use a hormone antagonist. This can help slow or stop the growth of the cancer.