BACKGROUND: Lung transplant recipients (LTRs) are at very high risk of skin cancer. Omega-3 fatty acids (FAs) are anti-inflammatory and immune-modulating and could potentially reduce this risk. We assessed the feasibility of omega-3 FA supplementation to reduce skin cancer among these patients.
METHODS: LTRs aged 18+ years, at least 1 year post-transplant, were recruited from the outpatient clinic of The Prince Charles Hospital, Brisbane. Participants were randomly allocated to 4-times-daily supplements containing either omega-3 FA (3.36 eicosapentaenoic acid [EPA] + docosahexaenoic acid) or placebo (4 g olive oil) for 12 months. Primary outcomes were rates of recruitment, retention, adherence (assessed by plasma omega-3 FA), and safety. Secondary outcomes were incident skin cancers.
RESULTS: Among 106 eligible lung transplant recipients, 49 consented to take part (46%) with 25 allocated to omega-3 FA and 24 to placebo supplements. Of these, 22 (88%) and 20 (83%), respectively, completed the trial. After 12 months, median plasma EPA increased substantially in the intervention group (125.0 to 340.0 µmol/L), but not the placebo group (98.0 to 134.5 µmol/L). In the intervention group, 6 patients developed skin cancers compared with 11 in the placebo group, giving an odds ratio (95% confidence interval) of 0.34 (0.09 to 1.32). There were no serious, active intervention-related adverse events.
CONCLUSIONS: This pilot trial among LTRs showed acceptable recruitment and high retention and adherence. We demonstrated a signal for reduction of new skin cancer cases in those taking omega-3 FA supplements, which supports the notion that a larger, more definitive trial is warranted.