More than one quarter of the cases of esophageal and stomach cancers in Linxian, China, where these cancers occur at epidemic rates, can be attributed to low serum selenium levels, according to American and Chinese investigators.
The investigators examined the association between baseline blood selenium levels and esophageal and stomach cancers from 1986 through 1991. The risk of esophageal cancer was 46% lower in individuals in the highest blood selenium level compared with those with the lowest level. The same individuals had a 53% lower risk of stomach cancer. Based on the data, the researchers calculate that 26.4% of esophageal and stomach cancers are attributable to low selenium levels.
The researchers speculated that their ongoing research would lead to a decision to implement selenium supplementation on a widespread scale in China, in a manner similar to folate supplementation of flour in Canada and the US. However, the data indicate that supplementation would likely only help prevent these cancers in regions where individuals have particularly low selenium levels, such as in China and some parts of Europe, but not in North America.
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