Fatty Acid intake and prostate cancer risk.




American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

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Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer, excluding skin cancer, in men in the United States. It is primarily diagnosed in men over 65, although it may begin much earlier. Some cancers of the prostate are very slow growing, while others behave aggressively. Prostate cancer often metastasizes to other tissue, including the brain, lungs, lymph nodes, and bones. Early detection is critical in order to increase the chances for survival. The cancer can be felt upon digital rectal examination (DRE). These examinations are recommended routinely for all men over the age of 50 and high-risk men should commence at age 40.

Little is known about the causes of prostate cancer. Risk factors for prostate cancer include family history and black race. While most prostate cancers are found in the peripheral zone, they may occur anywhere in the prostate. Most pathologists use the Gleason grading system to assess the tumor progression. A score from 2 to 4 indicates a well-differentiated cancer; 5 to 6 correlates with a moderately differentiated cancer; and 7 to 10 indicates a poorly differentiated cancer. The poorer the differentiation of the cancer cells (the higher the score), the worse the prognosis. Well-differentiated tumors grow slowly, whereas poorly differentiated tumors grow rapidly and are associated with a poor prognosis.

A cohort study published in the July issue of American Journal of Clinical Nutrition evaluated the association of fatty acids and prostate cancer. This 14-year cohort involved over 47,000 cancer-free men. During this study, 2,965 cases of prostate cancer were diagnosed. Of these, 448 were advanced cases. After analyzing the fatty acids (eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), linoleic acid, and arachidonic acid) it was found that ALA was unrelated to total cases of prostate cancer. After further review, it was found that high levels of ALA were actually associated with an increased risk of advanced prostate cancer. However, this study also found that EPA and DHA were linked to a lower the risk of advanced and total cancer.1


1. Leitzmann MF, et al. Dietary intake of n-3 and n-6 fatty acids and the risk of prostate cancer. Am J Clin Nutr. July 2004;80;1:204-216.