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.