Recent research linking the fish oil omega-3 to cancer should not be taken at face value, according to the Health Food Manufacturers' Association (HFMA).

Last week, a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute and carried out by Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle suggested that men with high levels of omega-3 in their blood were at 43 per cent greater risk of prostate cancer than those with low concentrations.

However, claims that the nutritional supplements could be harmful have been countered by the HFMA, which says the new research is inconclusive and contradicts "pre-existing, robust evidence" illustrating the positive impact that omega-3 can have.

The organisation pointed to a 2010 report published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, which correlated 31 studies on the effects of fish oil on men and concluded that there was actually a 63 per cent decreased risk of death from prostate cancer for men who consumed fish oil regularly.

Graham Keen, executive director of the HFMA, said the general public and healthcare professionals need to juxtapose the new findings alongside other research in the field before any public health recommendations are formulated or changes to healthy living plans are made.

"The vitamin and mineral supplements industry has an exceptional record of both safety and efficacy, in the UK and worldwide," he explained.

"Figures published by the Food Standards Agency showed that there were only 11 reported reactions to food supplements over an 11-year period, the majority of them in the lowest category of harm. Compared to other foods or medicines, food supplements have an enviable record."

Doubt was also cast on the new findings by British consultant urological surgeon Dr Robyn Webber, who echoed the HFMA's comments about the new research contradicting previous advice and labeled the latest study "controversial".

"People shouldn’t stop eating fish and I still think it’s too early to say whether they should stop taking supplements, especially since omega-3 is said to be to be useful for such things as stroke prevention," she concluded.