Omega-3 fatty acids in cancer, the protectors of good and the killers of evil?

Exp Cell Res. 2010 May 1;316(8):1365-73. doi: 10.1016/j.yexcr.2010.02.039. Epub 2010 Mar 6.


Omega-3 fatty acids have been implicated in cancer prevention and treatment. Conventional chemotherapeutics are considered "double-edged swords", as they kill the cancer cells but also strike the healthy cells causing severe morbidity and sometimes also mortality. Could omega-3 fatty acids in this setting work as a "sword and shield" instead, by being cytotoxic to cancer cells, but at the same time protect healthy cells from these deleterious effects? In addition, may our current diet with decreased omega-3/omega-6 ratio contribute to the increased cancer incidence, and could an omega-3 enriched diet be used as a preventive measure against cancer? Here, we seek answers to these questions by reviewing the effects of omega-3 fatty acids, particularly DHA, on various cancers with emphasis on a cancer of neural origin, neuroblastoma. Results from preventive and therapeutic animal as well as human studies together with mechanisms behind the observed toxicity are summarized.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control*


  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3