Previous studies on the association between polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and cancer have focused on n-3 PUFAs. To investigate the association between intake or blood levels of n-6 PUFAs and cancer, we searched the PubMed and Embase databases up to March 2020 and conducted a meta-analysis. A total of 70 articles were identified. High blood levels of n-6 PUFAs were associated with an 8% lower risk of all cancers (relative risk (RR) = 0.92; 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.86–0.98) compared to low blood levels of n-6 PUFAs. In the subgroup analyses by cancer site, type of n-6 PUFAs, and sex, the inverse associations were strong for breast cancer (RR = 0.87; 95% CI: 0.77–0.98), linoleic acid (LA) (RR = 0.91; 95% CI: 0.82–1.00), and women (RR = 0.88; 95% CI: 0.79–0.97). In the dose-response analysis, a 2% and 3% decrease in the risk of cancer was observed with a 5% increase in blood levels of n-6 PUFAs and LA, respectively. Thus, there was no significant association between n-6 PUFA intake and the risk of cancer. The pooled RR of cancer for the highest versus lowest category of n-6 PUFA intake was 1.02 (95% CI: 0.99–1.05). Evidence from prospective studies indicated that intake of n-6 PUFAs was not significantly associated with risk of cancer, but blood levels of n-6 PUFAs were inversely associated with risk of cancer.
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