Omega-3 fatty acid intake and decreased risk of skin cancer in organ transplant recipients

Skin Cancer

Eur J Nutr. 2020 Sep 9. doi: 10.1007/s00394-020-02378-y. Online ahead of print.


PURPOSE: Organ transplant recipients have over 100-fold higher risk of developing skin cancer than the general population and are in need of further preventive strategies. We assessed the possible preventive effects of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) intake from food on the two main skin cancers, squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and basal cell carcinoma (BCC) in kidney and liver transplant recipients.

METHODS: Adult kidney or liver transplant recipients transplanted for at least 1 year and at high risk of skin cancer were recruited from the main transplant hospital in Queensland, 2012-2014 and followed until mid-2016. We estimated their dietary total long-chain omega-3 PUFAs and α-linolenic acid intakes at baseline using a food frequency questionnaire and ranked PUFA intakes as low, medium, or high. Relative risks (RRsadj) of skin cancer adjusted for confounding factors with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated.

RESULTS: There were 449 transplant recipients (mean age, 55 years; 286 (64%) male). During follow-up, 149 (33%) patients developed SCC (median 2/person; range 1-40) and 134 (30%), BCC. Transplant recipients with high total long-chain omega-3 PUFA compared with low intakes showed substantially reduced SCC tumour risk (RRadj 0.33, 95% CI 0.18-0.60), and those with high α-linolenic acid intakes experienced significantly fewer BCCs (RRadj 0.40, 95% CI 0.22-0.74). No other significant associations were seen.

CONCLUSION: Among organ transplant recipients, relatively high intakes of long-chain omega-3 PUFAs and of α-linolenic acid may reduce risks of SCC and BCC, respectively.