According to a study published in the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, researchers at Washington State University found a mechanism by which omega-3 fatty acids inhibit the growth and spread of prostate cancer cells. These findings support the theory that omega-3s help reduce the risk of prostate cancer, and that they are effective in inhibiting the proliferation of cancer cells.
It is well known that omega 3 fatty acids reduce inflammation, but this appears to be novel research showing that they work this way in cancer. Interestingly, this study focused on prostate cancer, which has been a controversial subject in omega-3s, according to researcher Kathryn Meier, a professor of pharmacy at Washington State University.
With prostate cell cultures, the researchers found that the fatty acids bind to a receptor called free fatty acid receptor 4 (FFA4). Instead of stimulating cancer cells, the receptor acts as a signal to inhibit growth factors that suppress cancer cell proliferation. According to Meier, "This kind of knowledge could lead us to better treat or prevent cancer because now we know how it works."
Previous research had found that omega-3 consumption reduces either the risk of development of prostate cancer or the rate of mortality for those diagnosed with prostate cancer. In one study of over 90,000 Japanese subjects, researchers reported that the consumption of omega-3s appears to protect against the development of hepatocellular carcinoma. In a separate study, men with a high consumption of fish were shown to have a lower risk of prostate cancer, especially for metastatic cancer.
The populations (Inuit, Aboriginals, and other hunter-gatherers) with the highest omega-3 fatty acid consumption rates consistently have the lowest rates of cancer and every other chronic illness along with the highest levels of health.
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Source: Z. Liu, M. M. Hopkins, Z. Zhang, C. B. Quisenberry, L. C. Fix, B. M. Galvan, K. E. Meier. Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Other FFA4 Agonists Inhibit Growth Factor Signaling in Human Prostate Cancer Cells. Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, 2014; 352 (2): 380 DOI: 10.1124/jpet.114.218974