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Gastroenterology. 2012 Jun;142(7):1468-75. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2012.02.018. Epub 2012 Feb 16.

Consumption of n-3 fatty acids and fish reduces risk of hepatocellular carcinoma.

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Epidemiology and Prevention Division, Research Center for Cancer Prevention and Screening, National Cancer Center, Tsukiji, Chuo-ku Tokyo, Japan.



Fish is a rich source of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), such as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosapentaenoic acid (DPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Although consumption of fish and n-3 PUFA has been reported to protect against the development of some types of cancer, little is known about its association with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).


We investigated the association between fish and n-3 PUFA consumption and HCC incidence (n = 398) in a population-based prospective cohort study of 90,296 Japanese subjects (aged, 45-74 y). Hazard ratios and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for the highest vs the lowest quintile were estimated from multivariable adjusted Cox proportional hazards regression models. We also conducted subanalyses of subjects with known hepatitis B virus (HBV) or hepatitis C virus (HCV) status, and of subjects who were anti-HCV and/or hepatitis B surface antigen positive. All tests of statistical significance were 2-sided.


Among all subjects, consumption of n-3 PUFA-rich fish and individual n-3 PUFAs was associated inversely with HCC, in a dose-dependent manner. Hazard ratios for the highest vs lowest quintiles were 0.64 (95% CI, 0.42-0.96) for n-3 PUFA-rich fish, 0.56 (95% CI, 0.36-0.85) for EPA, 0.64 (95% CI, 0.41-0.98) for DPA, and 0.56 (95% CI, 0.35-0.87) for DHA. These inverse associations were similar irrespective of HCV or HBV status.


Consumption of n-3 PUFA-rich fish or n-3 PUFAs, particularly EPA, DPA, and DHA, appears to protect against the development of HCC, even among subjects with HBV and/or HCV infection.

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