Long-chain (n-3) fatty acid intake and risk of cancers of the breast and the prostate: recent epidemiological studies, biological mechanisms, and directions for future research

J Nutr. 2004 Dec;134(12 Suppl):3412S-3420S. doi: 10.1093/jn/134.12.3412S.


The association between dietary (n-3) fatty acids and hormone-responsive cancers continues to attract considerable attention in epidemiological, clinical, and experimental studies. We previously reviewed the epidemiological literature on the association between hormone-responsive cancers and the long-chain fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid. We concluded that the compelling evidence from ecological studies, animal models, and mechanistic experiments in vitro was not supported clearly by the available epidemiological data. To various degrees, epidemiological studies published more recently attempted to address some of the methodological limitations plaguing earlier studies by using validated questionnaires, examining specific fatty acids and their interrelationships, and adjusting estimates for a wider range of potentially confounding factors than in previous studies. In this review, our aim was to update the previous review with the results of recent epidemiological studies and to discuss possible biological mechanisms and directions for future research.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Dietary Fats, Unsaturated / administration & dosage*
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / administration & dosage*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Risk Factors
  • Seafood


  • Dietary Fats, Unsaturated
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3