The role of nutrition in liver cancer risk has been
underrepresented in research, particularly compared to risk factors such
as chronic infection with hepatitis B virus (HBV) or hepatitis C virus
(HCV). Yet, some studies have indicated that n-3 polyunsaturated fatty
acid (n-3 PUFA) may inhibit the promotion and progression stages of
carcinogenesis. Fish is a source rich in n-3 PUFA, making it an ideal
factor for analysis.
A new study in PLOS ONE
reviewed published studies on the role
of total fish intake and risk of primary liver cancer in case-control
and cohort studies. Ten studies were analyzed, with all but one study
hospital-based. A statistically significant inverse association between
total fish intake and risk of liver cancer was observed; in comparing
high vs. low intake, response models indicated that this risk was
reduced by 18% and 6% per one serving/week increase, respectively.
Although the exact mechanism of action is unknown, it is proposed that
n-3 PUFA may inhibit cancer development via molecular biosynthesis, gene
transcription and expression, and signal transduction or through its
Even with these findings, residual or unknown confounding factors
cannot be completely ruled out and not all studies controlled for risk
factors such as HBV/HCV status. While this study supports a possible
relationship between fish intake and liver cancer prevention, future
well-designed studies are needed.
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