This article reviews the current knowledge and experimental research about the mechanisms by which fatty acids and their derivatives control specific gene expression involved during carcinogenesis.

Changes in dietary fatty acids, specifically the polyunsaturated fatty acids of the ω-3 and ω-6 families and some derived eicosanoids from lipoxygenases, cyclooxygenases, and cytochrome P-450, seem to control the activity of transcription factor families involved in cancer cell proliferation or cell death.

Their regulation may be carried out either through direct binding to DNA as peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors or via modulation in an indirect manner of signaling pathway molecules (e.g., protein kinase C) and other transcription factors (nuclear factor kappa B and sterol regulatory element binding protein).

Knowledge of the mechanisms by which fatty acids control specific gene expression may identify important risk factors for cancer and provide insight into the development of new therapeutic strategies for a better management of whole body lipid metabolism.