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Highly Purified Omega-3 Fatty Acid Reduces Rectal Polyps

U.K. study finds eicosapentaenoic acid may hold promise as a colorectal cancer chemoprevention

TUESDAY, March 30 (HealthDay News) -- Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), a highly purified form of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid, reduces the number and size of precancerous polyps in subjects with familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP), according to a study published online March 26 in Gut.

Nicholas J. West, of St. Marks Hospital in London, and colleagues randomized patients with FAP to treatment for six months with 2 g daily of EPA, as the free fatty acid (EPA-FFA), or placebo. The patients -- all of whom had previously had surgery -- had surveillance endoscopies of their retained rectum postcolectomy at baseline and six months to detect polyps, which were scored by size and number and compared by group.

After treatment with EPA-FFA for six months, the researchers observed a mean 22.4 percent reduction in the number of polyps and a 29.8 percent reduction in the sum of polyp diameters compared to the group receiving placebo. The EPA-FFA group also had 2.6 times the mean mucosal EPA level of the placebo group. The incidence of adverse events, such as abdominal pain and diarrhea were similar in the two groups, but nausea occurred more in the EPA-FFA group.

"EPA-FFA has chemopreventative efficacy in FAP, to a degree similar to that previously observed with selective cyclo-oxygenase-2 inhibitors. EPA holds promise as a colorectal cancer chemoprevention agent with a favorable safety profile," the authors write.

The study was funded by SLA Pharma AG, which also paid part of the salary of one study author.

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