According to a new study published in The Journal of Nutrition, patients with advanced stage head and neck squamous cell carcinoma that consumed a diet high in long-chain fatty acids, omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids prior to cancer treatment had reduced risk of all-cause mortality.
Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma is a diverse disease that develops in the mouth or throat. Patients with this type of cancer frequently experience poor nutritional status before and during treatment due to side effects of the disease and because of treatments that impair the ability and desire to eat. As a result, patients are highly susceptible to infections and complications during and after treatment.
Evidence continues to emerge that certain types of fatty acids may be beneficial to health. Although diets high in fats are known to adversely affect certain cancers, there may be differing impacts of various types of fat on cancer prognosis. For example, saturated fats and trans fats have harmful effects, whereas monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids may be protective. However, human studies of dietary fat and cancer have yielded inconsistent results. To bridge this knowledge gap, Anna Arthur (University of Kansas Medical Center) and colleagues utilized data from a longitudinal cohort study to determine how intakes of various types of fat before cancer treatment are associated with recurrence and mortality in adults diagnosed with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma.
A total of 476 newly diagnosed patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma completed baseline food frequency questionnaires and epidemiologic health surveys. Recurrence and mortality events were collected annually. Fat intakes examined included long-chain fatty acids, unsaturated fatty acids (omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids, monounsaturated fatty acids), animal fats, vegetable fats, saturated fatty acids and trans fatty acids.
During the study period, there were 115 recurrent and 211 death events. High intake of long chain fatty acids was associated with a reduced all-cause mortality. High unsaturated fatty acid intake was associated with a reduced all-cause mortality risk and head and neck squamous cell carcinoma-specific mortality risk. High intakes of omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids were significantly associated with a reduced all-cause mortality risk.
In this cohort of newly diagnosed patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma, prognosis varied depending on the types of fats consumed before cancer treatment. These findings highlight the potential significance of both type and quantity of fats for head and neck squamous cell carcinoma prognosis and not just the total fats. Consuming a diet high in long-chain fatty acids, omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids prior to cancer treatment may have beneficial effects on the risk of all-cause mortality, particularly among patients with advanced stages of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. Consuming a diet high in unsaturated fatty acids prior to cancer treatment, may in particular, reduce the risk of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma mortality at the oral cavity.
Hania M Taha, Laura S Rozek, Xi Chen, Zonggui Li, Katie R Zarins, Alexander N Slade, Gregory T Wolf, Anna E Arthur, Risk of Disease Recurrence and Mortality Varies by Type of Fat Consumed before Cancer Treatment in a Longitudinal Cohort of Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma Patients, The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 152, Issue 5, May 2022, Pages 1298–1305, https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/nxac032.
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