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Selenium Supplements Can Reduce Cancer Rates

ITHACA, N.Y. -- Men and women taking selenium supplements for 10 years had 41 percent less total cancer than those taking a placebo, a new study by Cornell University and the University of Arizona shows. "Although more than a hundred of animal and dozens of epidemiological studies have linked high selenium status and cancer risk, this is the first double-blind, placebo-controlled cancer prevention study with humans that directly supports the thesis that a nutritional supplement of selenium, as a single agent, can reduce the risk of cancer," said Gerald F. Combs Jr., a nutritional biochemist and Cornell professor of nutritional sciences.

Combs and a group of co-authors reported their findings in the Jan. 1, 1997 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association. The senior author is epidemiologist Larry Clark, who was at Cornell at the onset of the study and is now at the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Arizona School of Medicine.

The other primary authors are Cornell biostatisticians Bruce W. Turnbull and Elizabeth Slate, professor and assistant professor, respectively, in the School of Operations Research and Industrial Engineering, and David S. Alberts, M.D., of the College of Medicine, Arizona Cancer Center.

In 1983, the researchers recruited 1,312 randomized patients with histories of skin cancer at seven dermatology clinics located in low-selenium areas of the United States (Augusta and Macon, Ga., Columbia, S.C., Wilson and Greenville, S.C., Miami, and Newington, Conn., where consumers ingest an average of about 100 micrograms of selenium a day). The patients were given either a placebo or a 200-microgram daily supplement of selenium (twice the average amount these Americans consume in their diet, thereby tripling their selenium intake).

Skin cancer patients were chosen because they have a 25 percent annual chance of a recurrence, and skin cancer is easy to diagnose and can be quickly treated. The res
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Contact: Susan Lang
SSL4@cornell.edu
607-255-3613
Cornell University News Service
8-Jan-1997


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