Selenium Supplements Can Reduce Cancer Rates

earchers set out to determine whether they could reduce the average recurrence rate with selenium supplements.

Ironically, 10 years later, the results were not significant for skin cancer. However, they were "compelling" for overall cancer incidence and mortality rates, Combs stressed. Of the selenium group, 69 developed some type of cancer compared with 116 of the placebo group; 28 of the selenium patients died of cancer compared with 58 from the placebo group.

"Overall, the selenium group experienced 18 percent less mortality than the placebo group, and almost all of that difference was due to some form of cancer," said Combs, who credits Cornell with having the longest history of research in selenium nutrition research in the world. "This is the first time anyone has shown that any single nutrient can result in such a reduction in cancer risk. The fact that we saw a pattern in lower incidence and mortality rates across all the clinics gives us even greater confidence in these findings."

Prostate, esophageal, colorectal and lung cancer rates were among the most dramatic: patients in the selenium group had 71 percent, 67 percent, 62 and 46 percent reductions in cancer rates, respectively, than the placebo group.

The current Dietary Guidelines now recommend that men consume 70 micrograms of selenium a day and women 55 micrograms; Americans typically get between 100 to 160 micrograms a day in their diets, Combs said.

Selenium blood levels vary widely in populations. Even Americans with the lowest selenium intake of 60 to 80 micrograms per day -- those living along the Southeastern seaboard and in the Pacific Northwest -- ingest two to five times more than citizens of New Zealand and 10 to 20 times more than people living in some areas of China. Selenium blood levels vary among populations largely because of wide differences in soil, agronomic practices, food availability and preferences and methods of food preparation.

Although a 1995 Harvard

Contact: Susan Lang
Cornell University News Service

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