Researchers paired 1,455 men and women diagnosed with colorectal cancer with an equal number of healthy control subjects matched for age, gender and region of residence. Total fatty acid, as well as saturated fatty acid, monounsaturated fatty acid, omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid, omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid, trans-fatty acid, and trans-monounsaturated fatty acid intake were determined. Intake levels of individual fatty acids, such as eicosapentanoic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA), were also calculated.
Greater intake of omega-3 fatty acids, EPA, and DHA were dose-dependently associated with reduced colorectal cancer risk. Compared to those with the lowest intake, participants whose omega-3 intake was in the highest group experienced a 37 percent lower risk of colorectal cancer. Subjects with intakes of EPA and DHA in the top fourth had a reduced risk of 41 and 37 percent, respectively.
The authors concluded that the observed effects of different types of fatty acids illustrates the importance of the type of fat in the origins and prevention of colorectal cancer.