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Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2013 Oct;22(10):1900-5. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-13-0434. Epub 2013 Jul 24.

Plasma omega-3 and omega-6 concentrations and risk of cutaneous basal and squamous cell carcinomas in Australian adults.

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Authors' Affiliations: Institute of Inflammation and Repair, Manchester Academic Health Sciences Centre, University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom; Cancer and Population Studies Group, Queensland Institute of Medical Research; and School of Population Health, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.


Laboratory-based evidence suggests that omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids may affect skin photocarcinogenesis, but epidemiologic evidence is inconsistent. In 1,191 White Australian adults, we prospectively investigated associations between baseline plasma concentrations of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and cutaneous basal cell carcinomas (BCC) and squamous cell carcinomas (SCC). Relative risks (RR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) were estimated on the basis of number of histologically confirmed tumors diagnosed during follow-up (1997-2007). Plasma eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) concentrations and omega-3/-6 ratio showed significant inverse associations with SCC tumors, comparing higher tertiles with the lowest, in age- and sex-adjusted models (Ptrend = 0.02 and 0.03, respectively) which weakened after adjustment for past sun exposure. Associations between EPA and SCC were stronger among participants with a history of skin cancer at baseline (n = 378; highest vs. lowest tertile: RR = 0.50; 95% CI, 0.28-0.92; Ptrend = 0.01). Total omega-6 was inversely associated with BCC tumors in multivariate models (P = 0.04; highest vs. lowest tertile: RR = 0.71; 95% CI, 0.51-0.99), and more strongly in the subgroup with past skin cancer. Linoleic and linolenic acids were also inversely associated with BCC occurrence in this subgroup. When fatty acids were analyzed as continuous variables, however, there was no evidence of any linear or nonlinear associations. This study provides some support for reduced skin cancer risk with high plasma concentrations of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, but results depended on how fatty acid data were modeled. Further investigation of these associations in larger datasets is needed.

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