Does Flaxseed Oil cause Prostate Cancer?

Recent media reports suggest a link between flaxseed oil and prostate cancer.

Health-conscious guys may be wondering, "Will I increase my risk for prostate cancer if I take this oil?"

Flaxseed oil is a plant source of omega 3 fatty acids. These special fats have been shown to help reduce your risk for heart disease, fight inflammation and boost the immune system.

Alpha linolenic acid (ALA) is one of the primary omega 3 fatty acids in flaxseed oil. ALA is absorbed by your body and converted into the omega 3's, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) through an enzymatic process. Another source of EPA and DHA is fish oil.

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While ALA is a healthy fatty acid, there are reports of high levels seen in some cases of prostate cancer. Additionally, animal studies have shown prostate cancer cells may grow when exposed to alpha linolenic acid.

Any man concerned about his health may have concerns about adding this reportedly healthy oil to their diet.

Will eating flaxseed oil cause prostate cancer, or does it increase your risk for it? The key may lie in what type of fats you have in your diet.

Fatty Meat-Based Diet May Increase Cancer Risk

Researchers at Harvard Medical School believe the type of fat in your diet may determine if you'll get prostate cancer.

Some studies indicate that diets with fish oils and/or dairy fats (not including butter) correlated with lower risks for prostate cancer.

Eating meat-based diets that provide high levels of ALA may lead to an increased risk for cancer; particularly diets with high amounts of red meats and bacon which are sources of saturated and trans-fatty acids.

Since flaxseed oils also contain alpha linolenic acid, is it possible there is a link between consuming high amounts of high alpha linolenic acid and an increased risk for prostate cancer?


The answer may lie in how you cook your meat. Scientists now know that exposing ALA to high cooking temperatures (such as grilling a big fat juicy steak) releases cancer-causing agents, such as benzene. In fact, it's now believed grilling meat causes cancer.

Currently, there are no published medical studies indicating that flaxseed oil causes prostate cancer. Nor are there any studies showing high ALA blood levels cause prostate cancer.

flaxseed oil and prostate cancer research

National Institutes of Health
investigates flaxseed oil

The National Cancer Institute performed a ground-breaking study on alpha linolenic acid and prostate cancer involving over 29,000 men.

They found absolutely no link between increased levels of alpha linolenic acid and prostate cancer.

Another study from Norway also found no connection between a dietary intake of alpha linolenic acid and prostate cancer.

The Final Word on Flaxseed Oils and Prostate Cancer

So what can we gather from this research?

  • There are conflicting studies linking prostate cancer with high levels of alpha linolenic acid:

    • Some studies show high alpha linolenic acid levels and an increased risk for prostate cancer and other studies didn't support this.

  • Eating a high fat diet may increase your risk for prostate cancer:

    • High cooking temperatures may alter the fat in meat, releasing cancer-causing agents. Alpha linolenic acid (found in certain cuts of meat) releases benzene (a carcinogen) when exposed to high temperatures.

Flaxseed oil is a great plant-source of omega 3 fatty acids. People that can't eat fish could take flaxseeds or flaxseed oil supplements to round out their omega 3 intake.

People that still wish to avoid flaxseed oils could take fish oils, krill oil, or eat at least 1 - 2 servings of freshwater fish per week. This will ensure you're getting adequate amounts of omega 3 fatty acids in your diet.

Personally, I think moderation is the key. One doesn't need to gulp down bottles of flaxseed oil to get the health benefits. I usually take a tablespoon or two of flaxseed oil with my protein shakes and also add ground flaxseeds to my morning cup of orange juice. Flaxseed oil is a natural healthy oil and a great way to get beneficial omega 3 fats in your diet.

One of the most popular flaxseed oils on is Barlean's Organic High Lignan Flax Oil. This product has one of the highest customer reviews with many people pleased with the delicious nutty flavor and the health benefits from the omega 3 fatty acids.

Search for more Flaxseed Oil Products

Research References:

A prospective study of dietary alpha-linolenic acid and the risk of prostate cancer (United States). Koralek DO, Peters U, Andriole G, Reding D, Kirsh V, Subar A, Schatzkin A, Hayes R, Leitzmann MF. Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, National Cancer Institute, NIH, DHHS, Bethesda, MD, USA Cancer Causes & Control. 2006 Aug;17(6):783-91.

The effects of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids on in vitro prostate cancer growth. Pandalai PK, Pilat MJ, Yamazaki K, et al Michigan Prostate Institute, University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center,USA. Anticancer Research 1996;16:815–20.

A prospective study of dietary fat and risk of prostate cancer. Journal of the National Cancer Institute 1993;85:1571–9. Giovannucci E, Rimm EB, Colditz GA, et al Department of Preventive Medicine, Northwestern University School of Medicine, Chicago Journal of the National Cancer Institute 1993;85:1

Prediagnostic level of fatty acids in serum phospholipids: omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and the risk of prostate cancer. Harvei S, Bjerve KS, Tretli S, et al. Cancer Registry of Norway, Institute for Epidemiological Cancer Research, Oslo. International Journal of Cancer, 1997;71:545–51.

Prospective study of plasma fatty acids and risk of prostate cancer. Giovannucci E, Rimm EB, Colditz GA, Stampfer MJ, Ascherio A, Chute CC, Willett WC. Channing Laboratory, Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Mass. Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 1994;86:281–6.

Association of energy and fat intake with prostate carcinoma risk: results from the Netherlands Cohort Study. Schuurman AG, van den Brandt PA, Dorant E, et al. Cancer 1999;86:1019–27.

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