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Does Fish Oil Cause Cancer? Smells Fishy to Me

Recently, a media report proposed a link between supplementing with fish oil and prostate cancer.  This was put out on all the major media outlets. It was in newspapers, magazines, and on the morning news.  Why not?  The media has one job:  attract eyeballs.  Plenty of people take fish oil and everybody is afraid of getting cancer so the media was falling over themselves to push this story out to an unknowing public.  But is there any merit to this claim that fish oil may be linked to an increased risk of prostate cancer?  Absolutely not.

For one thing, the test subjects were NOT supplementing with fish oil, nor were they eating a fish rich diet.  The study was meant to examine the impact taking vitamin E and selenium may or may not have on the expression of cancer.  So, how did anyone make the quantum leap that fish oil supplements may be linked to prostate cancer?  Good question.

They measured the levels of fatty acids in the blood and found a .04% higher percentage of EPA and .1% higher percentage of DHA in cancer patients versus patients without cancer.  This miniscule difference was not clinically significant to be mentioned ANYWHERE in the paper.  Regardless, news reports irresponsibly suggested that consuming EPA and DHA (which are found in fish oil) lead to an increased risk of prostate cancer and that men should “be careful not to eat too much fish.”

Wow.  Yes, because we shouldn’t be worried about our intake of sugar, processed foods, drugs, preservatives, and empty calories!  Fish are the real silent killer!  Down with halibut!

(Sigh)

A more reasonable conclusion would be that since the numbers were nearly identical, one should surmise that it is not likely that omega-3 fatty acids are in any way associated with prostate cancer.  Hence, taking EPA and DHA won’t prevent you from getting cancer.  However, implying that getting too much of it can CAUSE cancer is completely ridiculous.

This is even more laughable when you consider that societies that eat more fish tend to be healthier in general.  People from the Mediterranean region (whose diets are largely based on fish consumption) have much lower rates of all cancers, including prostate, in comparison to people in the United States, UK, and Canada.  In addition, Inuit indians (whose diet consists of nothing but fish and wild game) are at much less risk of prostate cancer than people who eat a Western diet.  They also don’t suffer from other “diseases of civilization” such as heart disease, alzheimer’s, and diabetes.  We should be emulating these people, not eating more processed garbage.

The fish oil / prostate cancer link is just another example of our fear mongering media run amok.  Fish oil supplementation (or better yet, fish consumption) is very healthful in a variety of ways.  Don’t get your health information from the media.  They run stories not because they are helpful or informative.  They run stories with the most shock value so they can improve their ratings.  Instead, improve your health by exercising, getting more sleep, eating real food, getting your spine adjusted, and managing your stress.  You want to know one good way to decrease your stress?  Quit watching the news.

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