British Journal of Nutrition

Dietary Surveys and Nutritional Epidemiology

Intake of α-linolenic acid and other fatty acids in relation to the risk of bladder cancer: results from the New Hampshire case–control study

Maree T. Brinkmana1a2 c1, Margaret R. Karagasa3, Michael S. Zensa3, Alan R. Schneda4, Raoul C. Reulena5 and Maurice P. Zeegersa2a6

a1 Department of General Practice, Academisch Centrum voor Huisartsgeneeskunde, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Kapucijnenvoer 33 Blok J, 3000 Leuven, Belgium

a2 Unit of Urologic and Genetic Epidemiology, Department of Public Health, Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Medicine, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK

a3 Section of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, Dartmouth Medical School and Norris-Cotton Cancer Centre, Lebanon, New Hampshire, USA

a4 Department of Pathology, Dartmouth Medical School, Lebanon, New Hampshire, USA

a5 Centre for Childhood Cancer Survivor Studies, School of Health and Population Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK

a6 Department of Complex Genetics, Cluster of Genetics and Cell Biology, NUTRIM School for Nutrition, Toxicology and Metabolism, Maastricht University Medical Center, Maastricht, The Netherlands


The role of dietary fat in bladder cancer aetiology is currently unclear due to few studies, equivocal findings and a lack of information on important dietary fatty acids. The aim of the present study was to investigate the association between the intake of major dietary fats and fatty acids and the risk of bladder cancer. A case–control study was conducted in New Hampshire, USA. Dietary data were collected from 322 cases and 239 controls, and OR and 95 % CI were calculated using unconditional logistic regression. Adjustment was made for potential confounders: sex, age, smoking status, pack-years smoked, cholesterol and energy intake. Statistically significant reduced odds of bladder cancer were observed for high intakes (highest quartile v. lowest quartile) of α-linolenic acid (ALA) (OR 0·26, 95 % CI 0·10, 0·65; P for trend = 0·01) and vegetable fat (OR 0·39, 95 % CI 0·18, 0·86; P for trend = 0·03). Borderline statistically significant reduced odds were detected for polyunsaturated fat (OR 0·43, 95 % CI 0·19, 0·98; P for trend = 0·07) and linoleic acid (OR 0·43, 95 % CI 0·19, 0·96; P for trend = 0·06). These fats and fatty acids were highly correlated and following adjustment for each other, the only potential inverse association to remain was for ALA. The present findings suggest that ALA may have a protective role against developing bladder cancer; however, further investigation and replication in other epidemiological studies are required. Future research should focus on the type, source and quantities of different dietary fatty acids consumed.

(Received September 24 2010)

(Revised January 06 2011)

(Accepted February 12 2011)

(Online publication May 10 2011)


c1 Corresponding author: Dr M. T. Brinkman, fax +32 16 33 74 80, email


Abbreviations: AA, arachidonic acid; ALA, α-linolenic acid; EFA, essential fatty acid; LA, linoleic acid; NSAID, non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs