Selenium supplements may raise skin cancer risk

October 7, 2003 in Cancer Prevention, Nutrition Topics in the News, Vitamins, Minerals, Supplements

Selenium supplements may raise skin cancer risk

In patients with a history of skin cancer other than melanoma, the use of selenium supplements does not appear to prevent the recurrence of two other types of skin cancer--basal cell and squamous cell cancer. What's more, they may actually raise the risk of squamous cell cancer, new research suggests.

The initial results from the Nutritional Prevention of Cancer Trial reported in 1996 showed that selenium use did not influence the rate of non-melanoma skin cancer in individuals who were at risk for this type of cancer. However, the new findings, which are based on three additional years of follow-up, suggest that use of the selenium, an antioxidant, may promote certain cancers.

These findings run counter to the results of animal studies that indicate a protective effect for selenium and other antioxidants. The study involved 1312 patients with a history of non-melanoma skin cancer who were randomly assigned to receive daily supplementation with selenium 200 micrograms or a dummy pill.

In agreement with the initial results, selenium use was not associated with the risk of basal cell cancer. However, use of the antioxidant seemed to raise the risk of squamous cell cancer, the researchers state. Selenium users were 25% more likely to develop this malignancy than nonusers.

These findings need to be viewed along with the overall impact of selenium supplementation as a potential cancer-preventing agent. Prostate cancer prevention trials that are now underway, including one testing selenium supplementation in men with pre-cancerous cells in the prostate, may help to clarify this overall impact.

All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.