Use of supplements containing selenium may reduce the risk of advanced prostate cancer, research from Harvard University suggests. No effect was seen against early prostate cancer, which suggests that selenium works by slowing cancer progression rather than by preventing it all together.
As reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, researchers analyzed data from men enrolled in the Physicians' Health Study.
At the beginning of the study 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% 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, but 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 and this should definitively answer whether selenium use is beneficial in preventing prostate cancer.
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