Colon cancer, fatty acids and anti-inflammatory compounds

Curr Opin Gastroenterol. 2007 Jan;23(1):48-54. doi: 10.1097/MOG.0b013e32801145d7.


Purpose of review: To outline recent findings on the efficacy of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in the prevention/treatment of inflammatory bowel disease and colorectal cancer.

Recent findings: Compelling data indicate a functional link between chronic inflammation and colon cancer. With respect to environmental risk factors, there is growing evidence that long-chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids found in fish oil suppress inflammatory bowel diseases and colon cancer risk in humans. Unfortunately, the molecular basis of the effect of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids on inflammation/colitis-associated colon cancer risk is still largely obscure. In this review, we focus on recent studies which address three emerging mechanisms of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids action: (1) metabolic interconversion into bioactive eicosanoids, (2) modulation of nuclear receptor activation, and (3) alteration of membrane phospholipid composition and functionality of lipid microdomains.

Summary: The consumption of dietary fish oil may prove to be an effective adjuvant therapy in colon cancer. Therefore, it is both appropriate and timely to determine precisely how n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids modulate cell signaling networks, and reduce the risk of developing colon cancer and inflammatory disorders of the intestine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / metabolism*
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacology*
  • Colonic Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / metabolism*
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / pharmacology*
  • Humans


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3