Selenium fights Cancer
According to a recent article in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, higher levels of dietary selenium may decrease the risk of prostate cancer.
The prostate is a walnut-sized gland that is located between the bladder and rectum, and is responsible for forming a component of semen. Within a lifetime, 1 out of every 6 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in the U.S., with an exponential increase in diagnosis after the age of 50. In fact, by the age of 60, as many as 34% of men show early evidence of prostate cancer, and 70% of men in their 80s have the disease.
Prostate cancer rates
Data has suggested that prostate cancer rates are highest among African Americans, intermediate among Caucasians, and lowest among native Japanese and Native Americans. African American men are nearly twice as likely to develop prostate cancer as Caucasian men and are twice as likely to die from the disease. There is increasing evidence that diet plays a role in the development of prostate cancer. Some studies indicate that prostate cancer is more prevalent in populations that consume a diet high in animal fat and/or a diet lacking certain nutrients.
Results from 15 out of 22 clinical studies indicate that a higher dietary fat intake is related to a higher risk for prostate cancer, with one study showing that men with a high fat intake had a 40% higher risk of developing prostate cancer. Several studies have suggested that diets high in nutrients such as lycopene, vitamin E, and selenium could actually reduce the risk of prostate cancer, leading some researchers to theorize that diets low in these nutrients could increase the risk of prostate cancer.
In the current study, 586 physicians involved in the Physician’s Health Study were followed for 13 years, beginning in 1982. The physicians underwent a variety of tests, including the levels of selenium in their blood. The average age for testing was approximately 60 years. Data indicated that the higher the selenium levels in the blood in the physicians, the less likely they were to develop advanced prostate cancer. In addition, men with a prostate specific antigen (PSA) level of 4 ng/ml or higher at the beginning of the study, which is the PSA level that prompts a prostate biopsy, also appeared to be protected against prostate cancer.
The researchers concluded that high levels of dietary selenium, as evidenced by high selenium levels in the blood, appears to reduce the risk of developing prostate cancer in men. A current large clinical trial called the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT), may also help to clarify the relationship between selenium and prostate cancer.