Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers in men. The disease occurs when the cells of a man’s prostate begin to multiply in an abnormal way.
In addition to traditional cancer treatments, some people are looking to alternative therapies for relief. Fish oil is purported to have many uses, including reducing your risk for prostate cancer. We’ll break down the benefits and risks of fish oil, and what the research says about its effect on cancer.
What are the benefits of fish oil?
- Omega-3s can reduce your risk for heart attack.
- They may protect against damage from UV rays.
- They may also improve symptoms of depression.
As the name suggests, fish oil is taken from the tissues of oily fish. Fish oil contains a number of omega-3 fatty acids, which provide many health benefits.
For example, absorbing theses fatty acids through the skin can provide protection against damage from UV rays.
Omega-3s can help stabilize fatty deposits on the side of arteries, which can make them less likely to rupture. The fatty acids can also reduce the frequency and severity of cardiovascular problems, such as heart attacks.
Omega-3s may also:
- improve symptoms of colitis
- improve symptoms of cystic fibrosis
- treat symptoms of lupus
- lower triglyceride levels
People with depression may improve their condition by eating more fish or omega-3 foods. Fish oil has also been used to treat psychiatric disorders.
When it comes to cancer prevention, fish oil has mixed reviews. It’s thought that omega-3s may reduce your risk for breast cancer. However, it may increase your risk for other cancers, including prostate cancer.
What the research says
The jury is still out on whether fish oil is beneficial for prostate cancer prevention and treatment. In fact, some research suggests it could be a factor of increasing risk when it comes to the prostate.
A 2014 study found a link between consuming omega-3 fatty acids and a higher risk of prostate cancer, but the findings are still preliminary. More research is needed to determine the possible connection between prostate cancer and omega-3s.
Overall, doctors recommend adding fish oil and other omega-3 fatty acids to your diet because of its effects on heart health and other types of cancer. Omega-3s have anti-inflammatory properties and have been thought to ward off certain diseases.
Risks and warnings
- Large amounts of fish oil may cause nausea.
- Ingesting too much may also cause a loose stool.
- Fish oil can interfere with certain medications.
As with any medication or supplement, fish oil isn’t for everyone. You shouldn’t add fish oil to your diet if you’re taking:
- certain chemotherapy drugs, including ones that are platinum-based
- glucocorticoids, a type of steroid hormones
- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
Fish oil may affect how these medications work and cause more side effects.
Most people can take fish oil without having any side effects, though side effects are possible. You may experience loose stools and nausea after ingesting large amounts of fish oil.
How to use fish oil
Although you may expect fish oil to be a liquid, it’s available in softgel form. You can generally find fish oil supplements at your local pharmacy or grocery store.
It’s important to remember that the omega-3s in the fish oil are what’s important. A standard 1,000-milligram dose of fish oil only contains about 300 milligrams of omega-3s. A 500-milligram dose of omega-3s is considered average. To meet the average dose, you may need to take more than one fish oil softgel.
If you’re interested in adding fish oil to your regimen, you should meet with your doctor. They can help guide you through the process and discuss any potential risks.
Other treatment options for prostate cancer
If you’ve been diagnosed with prostate cancer, there are many treatment options available to you. Your doctor and oncologist will recommend the best treatments for you. These treatments may include:
- Radiation – If your cancer is low grade, your doctor may recommend radiation to limit the spread of the disease.
- Watching and waiting – Your doctor may recommend a surveillance treatment if the cancer is slow-growing, such as prostate cancer. You and your doctor will monitor any progression through regular appointments and perhaps an occasional blood test.
- Vaccine treatment – A vaccine called sipuleucel-T (Provenge) has been made to fight prostate cancer cells. This vaccine is unlike other vaccines, which help the body fight infections. Check with your doctor to see if this treatment is right for you.
- Hormone therapy – Your doctor may recommend hormone therapy to keep tumors from getting bigger. This therapy works by reducing the number of male hormones in the body. These hormones are what may trigger the effects of prostate cancer.
What you can do now
Although fish oil is considered beneficial for your overall health, it isn’t clear what kind of effect it may have on your prostate. Consult with your doctor before adding fish oil to your regimen.
Be sure to mention any family cancer history. This information will help your doctor determine what’s best for your health profile.
If you decide to try fish oil, remember:
- The omega-3 fatty acids are what provide the health benefits.
- An average dose of omega-3s is 500 milligrams.
- A typical dose of fish oil may not provide the recommended amount of omega-3s.