Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Their Role in Pediatric Cancer

Nutrients. 2021 May 26;13(6):1800. doi: 10.3390/nu13061800.


Background: Malnutrition is common in children with cancer and is associated with adverse clinical outcomes. The need for supportive care is becoming ever more evident and the role of nutrition in oncology is still not sufficiently understood. In particular, the consequences of macro- and micronutrient deficiencies require further research. As epidemiological data suggest anti-tumoral properties of omega-3 (n-3) polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), we reviewed the role of nutrition and n-3 supplementation in pediatric oncology.

Methods: A comprehensive literature search was conducted on PubMed through 5 February 2021 to select meta-analyses, systematic reviews, observational studies, and individual randomized controlled trials (RCTs) on macro- and micronutrient supplementation in pediatric oncology. The search strategy included the following medical subject headings (MeSH) and keywords: "childhood cancer", "pediatric oncology", "nutritional status", "malnutrition", and "omega-3-fatty-acids". The reference lists of all relevant articles were screened to include potentially pertinent studies.

Results: We summarize evidence about the importance of adequate nutrition in childhood cancer and the role of n-3 PUFAs and critically interpret findings. Possible effects of supplementation on the nutritional status and benefits during chemotherapy are discussed as well as strategies for primary and secondary prevention.

Conclusion: We here describe the obvious benefits of omega-3 supplementation in childhood cancer. Further large scale clinical trials are required to verify potential anti-cancer effects of n-3 fatty acids.

Keywords: children; nutrition; omega-3 fatty acids; oncology; prevention; supplementation.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Cancer Survivors
  • Child
  • Cytokines
  • Databases, Factual
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Drug Therapy
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / therapeutic use*
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-6 / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Malnutrition
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Nutritional Status
  • Prevalence


  • Cytokines
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-6