Diet High in Fish May Help or Harm, New Study from Cancer Prevention Institute of California Shows

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Cancer Prevention Institute of California study is the first to show a link between cooking method of fish and prostate cancer

New research from the Cancer Prevention Institute of California (CPIC) and the University of Southern California (USC) has found that eating salmon and other dark, fatty fish may decrease risk of developing prostate cancer, while consuming flounder and other white, lean fish may increase risk.

It also depends on how the fish is cooked.

The study found that diets high in dark fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines reduced the risk of prostate cancer if the fish were cooked at low temperatures, like baking or boiling. This suggested protective effect disappeared when the fish was cooked at high temperatures, such as broiling, grilling or pan-frying.

“Avoiding the consumption of fish and meat that are charred from broiling or pan-frying may be a practical way of reducing the risk of prostate cancer,” said CPIC Senior Research Scientist Esther John, Ph.D., a co-author on the study, which appeared online in the journal Cancer Causes & Control. “Baked or poached salmon was one of the fish choices that should be studied further as to its cancer prevention properties.”

The researchers, led by Mariana Stern, Ph.D. at USC, analyzed data from nearly 3,000 men who participated in the California Collaborative Prostate Cancer Study which was conducted in the San Francisco Bay Area by Dr. John at CPIC and in Los Angeles by Sue A. Ingles, Dr.P.H at USC. Study participants completed a comprehensive survey that included a bevy of questions about the amount and types of fish they consumed on a weekly basis and how the fish was cooked. More than 60 percent of the men included in the study were diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer.

Surprisingly, men who ate two or more servings per week of white fish cooked using high-temperature methods were twice as likely to develop advanced prostate cancer than men who never ate any fish. The study found no association between cancer and diets high in white fish cooked using low-temperature methods.

In the United States, more than 240,000 men are diagnosed annually with prostate cancer and about 33,720 die from the disease, according to the National Cancer Institute. Only lung cancer kills more American men. According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, there are no proven strategies for preventing the disease, but changes in diet and lifestyle have shown to reduce the risk of disease progression.

The study also noted that high intake of deep-fried fish, such as fish sticks and fish sandwiches, was linked to an increased risk of prostate cancer among Hispanic men, but not among non-Hispanic whites or African-Americans, who reported the highest intake of fried fish than any other ethnic group studied.

The study received financial support from the California Cancer Research Program, the National Cancer Institute, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the Prostate Cancer Foundation.

About the Cancer Prevention Institute of California
The Cancer Prevention Institute of California (CPIC) is the nation’s premier organization dedicated to preventing cancer and to reducing its burden where it cannot yet be prevented. CPIC tracks patterns of cancer throughout the entire population and identifies those at risk for developing cancer. Its research scientists are leaders in investigating the causes of cancer in large populations to advance the development of prevention-focused interventions. CPIC’s innovative cancer prevention research and education programs, together with the Stanford Cancer Institute, deliver a comprehensive arsenal for defeating cancer. For more information, visit CPIC’s official website at


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Stephen Texeira
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