Considerable circumstantial evidence has accrued from both experimental animal and human clinical studies that support a role for omega-3 fatty acids (FA) in the prevention of non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC). Direct evidence from animal studies has shown that omega-3 FA inhibit ultraviolet radiation (UVR) induced carcinogenic expression. In contrast, increasing levels of dietary omega-6 FA increase UVR carcinogenic expression, with respect to a shorter tumor latent period and increased tumor multiplicity. Both omega-6 and omega-3 FA are essential FA, necessary for normal growth and maintenance of health and although these two classes of FA exhibit only minor structural differences, these differences cause them to act significantly differently in the body. Omega-6 and omega-3 FA, metabolized through the lipoxygenase (LOX) and cyclooxygenase (COX) pathways, lead to differential metabolites that are influential in inflammatory and immune responses involved in carcinogenesis. Clinical studies have shown that omega-3 FA ingestion protects against UVR-induced genotoxicity, raises the UVR-mediated erythema threshold, reduces the level of pro-inflammatory and immunosuppressive prostaglandin E2 (PGE2
) in UVR-irradiated human skin, and appears to protect human skin from UVR-induced immune-suppression. Thus, there is considerable evidence that omega-3 FA supplementation might be beneficial in reducing the occurrence of NMSC, especially in those individuals who are at highest risk.
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