Omega-3 diet may slow prostate cancer growth

In collaboration with the Press Association

Eating plenty of foods which contain omega-3 fatty acids could help to improve the outlook for men who are genetically prone to developing prostate cancer, researchers have found. The main source of omega-3 acids is oily fish such as mackerel, sardines and salmon.

A team at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine studied mice that had been genetically engineered so they lacked an important gene called Pten. This meant that the mice spontaneously developed prostate cancer.

The engineered mice were fed varying levels of fish-derived omega-3 and vegetable-derived omega-6 fatty acids from birth.

The team found that mice on a diet high in omega-3 fish oils had a 60 per cent survival rate from prostate cancer. But only ten per cent of those on a low omega-3 diet survived.

And mice given a diet with high omega-6 levels and very low omega-3 had the poorest survival rates.

Senior researcher Dr Yong Chen, a cancer biology professor at the university, said: "This study clearly shows that diet can tip the balance toward a good or a bad outcome.

The researchers also studied a group of mice with normal copies of the Pten gene. These control mice remained free from prostate cancer regardless of their diet. Dr Chen commented: "This suggests that if you have good genes, it may not matter too much what you eat.

"But if you have a gene that makes you susceptible to prostate cancer, your diet can tip the balance," he explained.

Dr Emma Knight, science information manager at Cancer Research UK, commented: "These results are interesting and throw more ideas into the pot about the link between diet and cancer.

"Although this work is at a very early stage, it raises the possibility that omega-3 might help delay or prevent the onset of prostate cancer, although this is by no means conclusive," she noted.

"This study has helped shed light on the molecular processes inside our cells that might underlie this effect."

The research is published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.