Ask the Nutritionist
Q: The label on high-grade fish oil capsules warns against taking them if you’ve ever had any kind of cancer. What are the dangers to cancer patients and survivors?
M. S., Loma Linda, California
A: There has been recent data that suggests potential interactions between Omega-3 (essential fatty acid or EFA) supplements and cancer outcomes.
One recent study found a possible role of EFAs interfering with the effectiveness of platinum-based chemotherapy; however, this has not been tested in a randomized study, and the data should be considered preliminary at best. On the other hand, a more advanced research study, phase II clinical trial, has shown improvements in cancer outcomes among breast cancer patients receiving chemotherapy who were taking omega-3 supplements.
Overall, the benefits of fish oil supplements most likely outweigh the potential adverse effects. However, inconsistent study results highlight the importance of speaking with your physician and nutritionist to determine which supplements and at what dose may be best in your particular context.
Omega-3 fats are also found in many healthy foods, including wild salmon, sardines, bluefish, ground flax seeds, walnuts and pumpkin seeds.