Are the olive oil and other dietary lipids related to cancer? Experimental evidence

Eduard Escrich, Montserrat Solanas, Raquel Moral, Irmgard Costa, Laura Grau

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleResearchpeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


There is a wealth of evidence supporting the relationship between dietary lipids and cancer, particularly those of the breast, colon and rectum and prostate. The main support comes from the international correlational studies and, especially, from experimental ones. The evidence from human analytical studies is less consistent because of several conflicting findings, probably due to methodological issues. Experiemntally, it has been clearly demonstrated that quantity and type of dietary lipids as well as the particular critical phases of the carcinogenesis in which they act, are the essential factors in this relationship. Thus, whereas high dietary intake of n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), primarily LA, and saturated fat has tumor-enhancing effects, long chain n-3 PUFA, CLA and GLA have inhibitory effects. Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA), mainly OA, present in high quantities in olive oil, seem to be protective although some inconsistent results have been reported. Bioactive compounds of virgin olive oil may also account for the protective effect of this oil, which is the main source of fat in the Mediterranean diet. Experimental studies have also provided evidence of several putative mechanisms of action of dietary lipids on cancer. Lipids can influence the hormonal status, modify cell membranes structure and function, cell signalling transduction pathways and gene expression, and modulate the function of the immune system. Although further studies are needed to evaluate and verify these mechanisms in humans, based on the multiple ways dietary lipids can act, they may have an important influence on tumorigenesis. © FESEO 2006.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)868-883
JournalClinical and Translational Oncology
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2006


  • Cancer
  • Dietary lipids
  • Mechanisms of action
  • Mediterranean diet
  • Olive oil

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