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Selenium May Protect
Against Prostate Cancer




Use of supplements containing selenium may reduce the risk of advanced prostate cancer, new research suggests. The fact that no effect was seen against early prostate cancer suggests that selenium works by slowing cancer progression rather than by preventing it all together.

The current study is one of several recent looks at the link between selenium levels and prostate cancer. "Our study is the largest in terms of the (number of participants) and the follow-up period," lead author Dr. Haojie Li, from Harvard Medical School in Boston, stated.

As reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, the researchers analyzed data from men enrolled in the Physicians' Health Study. When the study began, the men, who were cancer-free at the time, gave blood samples that were tested for selenium among other things.

Selenium levels from 586 men who later developed prostate cancer were compared with levels from 577 similar men who didn't develop prostate cancer.

Men with the highest selenium levels were 48 percent less likely to develop advanced prostate cancer than men with the lowest levels. Moreover, this association was observed for men diagnosed before and after PSA testing to detect early prostate cancer came into widespread use in October 1990.

High selenium levels were linked to a reduction in the overall risk of prostate cancer, Li said. "However, on further analysis, only the association with advanced cancer," was statistically significant, not early cancer.

A specially designed study, "known as the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT), is underway," Li noted, and this should definitively answer whether selenium use is beneficial in preventing prostate cancer.

SOURCE: Journal of the National Cancer Institute, May 5, 2004.


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