n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid intake and cancer risk in Italy and Switzerland

Alessandra Tavani, Claudio Pelucchi, Maria Parpinel, Eva Negri, Silvia Franceschi, Fabio Levi, Carlo La Vecchia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Data from a series of case-control studies, conducted in Italy and Switzerland between 1991 and 2001, have been analyzed to evaluate the role of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) intake in the etiology of cancer of oral cavity and pharynx (736 cases, 1,772 controls), esophagus (395 cases, 1,066 controls), large bowel (1,394 colon, 886 rectum, 4,765 controls), breast (2,900 cases, 3,122 controls) and ovary (1,031 cases, 2,411 controls). Controls were patients admitted to hospital for acute, non-neoplastic conditions, unrelated to modifications in diet. The multivariate odds ratios (OR) for the highest quintile of n-3 PUFAs compared to the lowest one were 0.5 for oral and pharyngeal cancer, 0.5 for oesophageal cancer, 0.7 for colon cancer, 0.8 for rectal and breast cancer and 0.6 for ovarian cancer; the estimates and the trends in risk were significant for all cancer sites, excluding rectal and breast cancer. The estimates for an increase in n-3 PUFAs of 1 g/week were 0.70 for oral and pharyngeal cancer, 0.71 for oesophageal, 0.88 for colon, 0.91 for rectal, 0.90 for breast and 0.85 for ovarian cancer. All the estimates were statistically significant, excluding that for rectal cancer, and consistent across strata of age and gender. These results suggest that n-3 PUFAs decrease the risk of several cancers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-116
Number of pages4
JournalInternational Journal of Cancer
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - May 20 2003


  • Breast cancer
  • Cancer
  • Case-control study
  • Colorectal cancer
  • n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid
  • Oesophageal cancer
  • Oral and pharyngeal cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Risk factors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology


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