MANCHESTER, UNITED KINGDOM. Men face a much more dangerous form of prostate cancer if tumor cells from the prostate gland metastasize and migrate and invade other parts of the body, such as bone marrow. New research suggests that oily fish may help prevent this process. It appears that omega-3 fats contained in oily fish can prevent the cancer spreading to bone marrow, a process which may be encouraged by the other major group of polyunsaturated fatty acids – omega-6 fats.
Researchers at the Christie Hospital in Manchester found evidence for this effect in laboratory tests, where they showed that omega-3 fats can inhibit invasion by prostate cancer cells, potentially reducing the threat of metastasis. They also found that omega-6 fatty acids, found in vegetable oils, nuts and seeds, increased the risk of tumor cells spreading into bone marrow. This invasion was blocked by omega-3 fats, which are found in oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and tuna.
The researchers believe that cancerous tumors may use omega 6 fats as a high-energy food, enabling rapid growth. Omega-3 fats are known to interfere with the various functions of omega-6 fats, they explain, and this was confirmed by the current findings. This effectively removes the cancer's 'free lunch', a fact that may have clinical importance. Eating a diet with the right balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fats may well help to keep prostate cancer within the prostate gland where it may be monitored safely or more easily treated with surgery or radiotherapy, they conclude, adding that a healthy balance of these two types of fat would be about half as much omega-3 as omega-6.
Brown, M.D. et al. Promotion of prostatic metastatic migration towards human bone marrow stoma by Omega 6 and its inhibition by Omega 3 PUFAs. British Journal of Cancer, Vol. 94, March 27, 2006. pp. 842-53