Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Cancer

The Key Points:

Suggestions on how to get more omega-3 fatty acids into your diet:

  • AEat 2 to 3 portions of oily fish a week, these types of fish include salmon, herring, mackerel and sardines. When buying fish, it is better to choose wild fish over farmed fish to get the right omega-3 to omega-6 ratio in.
  • Nuts and seeds are plant-based rich sources of omega-3. Add flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds and walnuts into your diet by topping your morning porridge or putting them into smoothies.
  • Flaxseed oil and linseed oil are both rich omega-3 plant-oils, use a 1 tablespoon of one of these oils to drizzle onto salads or vegetables.
  • Fortified foods with omega-3 fatty acids include eggs, soymilk, butter, yoghurt and juices. If you don’t eat fish look for these alternatives to add more omega-3 into your diet.
  • You may want to consider an omega-3 supplement if you are not getting enough of the foods mentioned above. When purchasing these supplements aim to

Omega-3 Fatty Acids & Cancer: The Article

  • Omega-3 fatty acids are classified as essential fats as the body cannot make them and therefore, you must get these from foods. Foods high in omega-3 include fish, nuts, seeds, vegetable oils and other fortified foods.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids are an integral part of cells as they are the major constituent of the cell membrane which determines how the cell functions1. They are key nutrients that are involved in how we grow and develop, as well as the development of chronic diseases2 such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
  • The beneficial effects of consuming foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids are mostly related to the anti-inflammatory effects these essential nutrients have3.
  • Studies have reported a dose-response relationship between consuming a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids and cancer risk4. In one study they reported that individuals who consumed higher amounts of omega-3 rich foods had a reduced risk of colorectal cancer4.
    • This response is due to the components of omega-3, EPA and DHA reducing inflammatory response and playing a part in multiple anti-tumour actions1. They also have a chemotherapy efficacy and consequently improve the overall survival of cancer patients6.


    1. McIntosh, T.J., and Simon, S.A. (2006). “Roles of Bilayer Material Properties in Function and Distribution of Membrane Proteins.” Annual Review of Biophysics and Biomolecular Structure. 35: 177-198.
    2. Stephenson, J.A., Al-Taan, O., Arshad, A., Morgan, B., Metcalfe, M.S., and Dennison, A.R. (2013). “The Multifaceted Effects of Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids on the Hallmarks of Cancer.” Journal of Lipids. 2013:1-13.
    3. Freitas, R.D.S., and Campos, M.M. (2019). “Protective Effects of Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Cancer-Related Complications.” Nutrients. 11(5):945.
    4. Lee, K.H., Seong, H.J., Kim, G., Jeong, G.H., Kim, J.Y., Park, H., Jung, E., et al. (2020). “Consumption of Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Cancer Risk: An Umbrella Review of Meta-analyses of Observational Studies.” Advances in Nutrition. 11(5):1134-1149.
    5. Theodoratou, E., McNeill, G., Cetnarskyj, R., Farrington, S.M., Tenesa, A., Barnetson, R., Porteous, M., Dunlop, M., and Campbell, H. (2007). “Dietary fatty acids and colorectal cancer: a case-control study.” American Journal of Epidemiology. 166(2):181-95.
    6. Martins, E., Oliveira, A.C.D.M., Pizato, N., Muniz-Junqueira, M.I., Magalhães, K.G., and Nakano, E.Y. (2017). “The effects of EPA and DHA enriched fish oil on nutritional and immunological markers of treatments naïve breast cancer patients: A randomised double-blind controlled trial.” Nutrition Journal. 16(71): 1-11.