A new preparation of an omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid found naturally in fish, offers hope for thousands of patients at risk of developing an inherited form of bowel cancer, a new study shows.

A team of investigators, led by Professor Mark Hull from the University of Leeds, studied patients diagnosed with a rare inherited condition called FAP (familial adenomatous polyposis), thought to be responsible for about one in every 100 bowel cancers. FAP causes a large number of polyps to form in the lining of the large bowel. Patients usually undergo bowel surgery but remain at risk of developing polyps and cancer in any remaining bowel so that regular endoscopic (camera test) checks are required.

In a small randomised, placebo-controlled trial (involving 55 individuals), scientists observed a significant reduction in the size and number of pre-cancerous growths, known as polyps, during a six month trial of the omega-3 preparation.

Now Professor Hull and his team say that further research is needed to find out if this new agent, EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) could help prevent the non-hereditary form of bowel cancer, which is the third most common cancer in the UK, diagnosed in around 37,000 people each year.

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For further information on what it’s like to live with FAP go to our Telling Stories website and read/listen to the real-life accounts from Diane, Paul and Lorraine