Historical perspective and potential use of n-3 fatty acids in therapy of cancer cachexia

Nutrition. 1996 Jan;12(1 Suppl):S2-4. doi: 10.1016/0899-9007(96)90008-8.


A review of the current status of research on n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic, indicates that these fatty acids exhibit protective effects on: (i) the development of carcinogen-induced tumors, the growth of solid tumors, cachexia, and metastatic diseases in experimental models; and (ii) accelerated proliferation of flat human rectal mucosal epithelial cells in individuals at risk for colon cancer, and two biomarkers of risk for breast cancer--leukocyte adenosine diphosphate ribosyl transferase activity and 16-alphahydroxylated estrogen--in women at risk for breast cancer. These research findings, along with epidemiological evidence of an inverse relationship between n-3 fatty acid intake and incidence of some cancers, warrant clinical investigation in the potential benefit of n-3 fatty acids in the prevention and therapy of cachexia in cancer patients.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cachexia / drug therapy*
  • Cachexia / etiology
  • Cytokines / physiology
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / therapeutic use
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid / therapeutic use
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / complications*


  • Cytokines
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid