A new research study carried out by scientists in Leeds and London (UK) and Bologna (Italy) has found that fish oil reduces the size and number of bowel polyps in people with familial adenomatous polyposis, a bowel cancer that is inherited.
People with the condition develop multiple growths (polyps) in the colon. These are benign but if they are allowed to remain, they will eventually develop into cancer. Surgery to remove them is usually ineffective as the cancer returns.
Some people with familial adenomatous polyposis chose to have their colon removed to prevent the cancer from occurring.
Researchers used new omega 3 enteric coated tablets. The coating stops the active ingredient from being released before it reaches the intestine, so that the patient gets the full benefit of it. It also reduces the chance of side-effects.
They observed 55 patients, 28 of whom were given the omega 3 over a six month period. Those who had had the omega 3 had a significant reduction in the size and number of their polyps. The placebo group showed an increase in polyp number and size over the same time frame.
Professor Hull, the lead author, said: "A safe and effective drug therapy may reduce the number of invasive check-up procedures, which can be unpleasant and always involve a small amount of risk.
"There is definitely a clinical need for an effective, preventative therapy that is both safe and well tolerated as the existing drug therapy for FAP can be associated with an increased risk of heart attack in older individuals. The particular preparation of EPA that we used delivers approximately four times as much beneficial polyunsaturated fatty acid per day as is derived from eating two to three portions of fish a week. The drug is also designed to be released into the small intestine, minimizing nausea and halitosis often associated with taking over-the-counter fish oil supplements.”
The researchers concluded that omega 3 fish oil works as a chemopreventative:
"EPA-FFA has chemopreventative efficacy in FAP, to a degree similar to that previously observed with selective cyclo-oxygenase-2 inhibitors," they wrote.