Headlines linking fish oil to both higher and lower risk for cancer in two contradictory new studies have left millions of Americans confused and even alarmed about the safety of the nation’s most popular supplement.
First, Chinese researchers reported that high intake of fish oil reduced women’s risk for breast cancer by 14 percent. The analysis, published in the British Medical Journal, pooled data from 21 studies involving nearly 900,000 women.
Then another study, published a month later in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, ignited a media firestorm, with such scary headlines as, “Men who take omega-3 supplements at 71 percent higher risk of prostate cancer,” and “Hold the Salmon: Omega-3 Fatty Acids Linked to Higher Risk of Cancer.”
However, some critics have attacked the prostate cancer study as “very fishy,” “flawed” or even “junk science.” In addition, media coverage of the findings has been lambasted as “disgraceful, incompetent, and scientifically illiterate.”
Earlier research reports that the fatty acids in fish (such as DHA and EPA) reduce risk for heart attacks, sudden cardiac death, heart failure, and arrhythmias, and may help ward off Alzheimer’s disease.