Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Fish and Cancer Prevention – Position Statement

Key Messages

Omega-3 (n-3) fatty acids (FAs) are associated with a range of health benefits. Oily fish such as swordfish, Atlantic salmon, gemfish and Spanish mackerel, are rich sources of n-3 FAs.

The evidence for an inverse association between n-3 FAs and cancer risk is largely insufficient to draw any meaningful conclusions. Available studies are too limited in number, consistency and quality to permit a conclusion of a probable or definite link between n-3 FAs and a reduction in cancer risk.

However, Cancer Council analysis suggests there is limited suggestive evidence for an association between increased fish consumption and a reduced risk of breast, prostate cancer and bowel cancer risk. There is limited suggestive evidence for an association between higher n-3 to omega-6 (n-6) FA ratio in the diet and reduced breast cancer risk.

The scientific evidence for a range of health conditions clearly supports people including n-3 FAs from both marine and plant sources as part of a balanced diet. n-3 FAs are known to help reduce the risk of heart disease, lower triglycerides and relieve inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease.

Therefore Cancer Council recommends people:

  • Eat fish (preferably oily) at least two times per week; and
  • Include some plant foods and oils rich in n-3 FAs in their diet.

These recommendations are consistent with those made by Heart Foundations around the world and the Australian Dietary Guidelines.

Cancer Council encourages all people to follow the recommendations of the Foods Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) about consumption of fish high in mercury.

Cancer Council supports further research to improve knowledge on the benefit of n-3 FAs, fish and cancer risk and the underlying mechanisms involved.

Read the full position statement:
Omega-3 fatty acids, fish and cancer prevention