Updated 21 February 2018

Selenium cuts prostate cancer risk

Increased selenium intake in combination with a daily multivitamin may reduce the risk of prostate cancer by about 40 percent, suggests new research.

Increased selenium intake in combination with a daily multivitamin may reduce the risk of prostate cancer by about 40 percent, suggests new research.

Similar risk reductions were also observed for people with high vitamin E levels, and among smokers. But the research, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition appears to challenge the notion of risk reduction outside of these subgroups.

“Greater concentrations were associated with reduced prostate cancer risks in men who reported a high intake of vitamin E, in multivitamin users, and in smokers,” wrote lead author Ulrike Peters.

Previous studies have reported that the mineral is associated with reducing the risk of prostate and lung cancer, as well as boosting the immune system.

Over half a million new cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed every year worldwide, and the cancer is the direct cause of over 200 000 deaths. More worryingly, the incidence of the disease is increasing with a rise of 1,7 percent over 15 years.

Benefit for certain groups
However, results of the new nested case-control study, part of the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial, suggest that increased blood levels of the mineral may not reduce the risk of prostate cancer in the wider population, but may offer a significant benefit for smokers, people with high vitamin E intake, and multivitamin users.

The researchers, from a range of universities and institutes in the US and Denmark, measured blood selenium levels in 724 people with prostate cancer and 879 healthy controls.

After eight years of follow-up, Peters and co-workers report that, while no significant reduction in prostate cancer risk was found between serum selenium levels in the overall population, among those with high vitamin E intake (greater than 28IU per day) high selenium blood levels were associated with a 42 percent risk reduction, compared to those with low selenium levels.

Similar reductions in prostate cancer risk were observed in multivitamin users - for the highest compared with the lowest quartile of selenium blood levels a risk reduction of 39 percent.

Moreover, higher serum selenium levels were associated with a 35 percent reduced risk of prostate cancer among smokers, said the researchers.

Study has its limitations
The study has a number of limitations, particularly being based on case and controls, and dietary consumption of selenium containing foods or supplements may have changed on diagnosis of the cancer. Also, since the study was epidemiological no direct mechanistic study was conducted.

Significant further research is required, including more epidemiological studies and randomised controlled trials in humans, to further confirm these results, as well as investigating the underlying mechanism of how selenium appears to offer protection.

The researchers were from the University of Washington, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, the Washington University, the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, The Danish University of Pharmaceutical Sciences, the Core Genotype Facility, and National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health. - (Decision News Media, February 2007)


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