Selenium Makes the News

~ May 1997 No.8 ~

Selenium has been one of those elements that has been around forever, but no-one really could find a use for it. Now that is all changing. The latest report by researchers in the United States indicates that selenium may have a role to play in the prevention and treatment of cancer.

In an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, a team of researchers at the Arizona Cancer Center have reported that the daily intake of selenium reduced the incidence of lung, colon / rectal and prostrate cancer. Over 1300 people participated in the three year study, which contained a control group that received a placebo containing no selenium. Although the original purpose of the study was to evaluate the usefulness of increased selenium intake on skin cancer, the investigators were able to monitor the incidence of other cancers. The groups results for skin cancer were not encouraging. However, after three years, lung cancer in the group receiving selenium was reduced by 46%, colon / rectal cancer was reduced by 58% and the incidence of prostrate cancer dropped by 63%compared to the group receiving no supplemental selenium.

Not only did the extra selenium reduce the number of people contracting cancer, the article reports that when subjects did get cancer, they were 50% more likely to survive the cancer if they were receiving additional selenium.

Both the authors of the original paper and an accompanying editorial caution about over reaction to the findings, and stress the need for additional studies to confirm their findings. But there is no doubt that selenium now shares the lime light with other antioxidant as possible tools in the fight against cancer.

Selenium Facts
Food
chemical symbol:Se
chemistry:in the same family as sulfur. Has been shown to substitute for sulfur in compounds of plants grown in selenium rich conditions. Some of its toxic properties may be due to its similarity to sulfur.
metabolic functions:has been shown to spare vitamin E in some metabolic processes; involved in electron transport reactions
food sources of Se:levels usually very low and depend on the selenium content of the soil. Some cereals have been shown to bio-concentrate selenium.
selenium deficiency:not observed in man; has been shown in experimental and domestic animals
toxicity level:can occur in man when selenium concentrations in the diet exceed 3 ppm.

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Last modified

July 20 2015