A study by the University of Aberdeen has found that a higher concentration of the molecules that breakdown omega-3 fatty acids is associated with a higher chance of survival from bowel cancer. The study, published in the British Journal of Cancer, measured the proportion of the enzymes responsible for the metabolism of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in tumors found in bowel cancer patients, and compared it to the patient’s survival. Results showed that a higher proportion of omega-3 metabolizing enzyme to omega-6 metabolizing enzyme is associated with less spread of the tumor and a greater chance of survival for an individual patient.
Professor Graeme Murray who led the study explains: “The molecules or ‘metabolites’ that arise from the breakdown of omega-3 – prevent tumor spread and we assume that with more of the enzyme that breaks down omega-3 there will be increased metabolites of omega-3, and this will limit tumor spread. The less a tumor has spread the better the outcome. The converse is true for omega-6 metabolizing enzyme – such that a higher proportion of omega-6 metabolizing enzyme compared to omega-3 could lead to a worse outcome for the patient. Prior to this study we did not know that such a relationship existed between these enzymes and survival in bowel cancer. Our findings are important because it highlights a new pathway for understanding survival from bowel cancer.”