Selenium and cancer
Observational studies indicate that death from cancer, including lung, colorectal, and prostate cancers, is lower among people with higher blood levels or intake of selenium . In addition, the incidence of nonmelanoma skin cancer is significantly higher in areas of the United States with low soil selenium content. The effect of selenium supplementation on the recurrence of different types of skin cancers was studied in seven dermatology clinics in the U.S. from 1983 through the early 1990s. Taking a daily supplement containing 200g of selenium did not affect recurrence of skin cancer, but significantly reduced the occurrence and death from total cancers. The incidence of prostate cancer, colorectal cancer, and lung cancer was notably lower in the group given selenium supplements.
Research suggests that selenium affects cancer risk in two ways. As an anti-oxidant, selenium can help protect the body from damaging effects of free radicals. Selenium may also prevent or slow tumor growth. Certain breakdown products of selenium are believed to prevent tumor growth by enhancing immune cell activity and suppressing development of blood vessels to the tumor .
The SELECT study, a long-term study sponsored by the NIH, is investigating whether supplemental selenium and/or vitamin E can decrease the risk of prostate cancer in healthy men. Past evidence as well as pre-clinical trials for the SELECT study suggests that these two nutrients may be effective in preventing prostate cancer. A daily supplement containing 200 g of selenium will be given to individuals in the selenium-only study group, while men in the combined-nutrients group will receive a daily supplement containing 200g selenium and 400 mg vitamin E. The study, which will span from 2001 to 2013, will include 32,400 healthy adult men .
Selenium and heart disease_
Some population surveys have suggested an association between lower antioxidant intake and a greater incidence of heart disease. Evidence also suggests that oxidative stress from free radicals, which are natural by-products of oxygen metabolism, may promote heart disease. For example, it is the oxidized form of low-density lipoproteins (LDL, often called "bad" cholesterol) that promotes plaque build-up in coronary arteries. Selenium is one of a group of antioxidants that may help limit the oxidation of LDL cholesterol and thereby help to prevent coronary artery disease . Currently there is insufficient evidence available to recommend selenium supplements for the prevention of coronary heart disease.
Selenium and arthritis_
Surveys indicate that individuals with rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic disease that causes pain, stiffness, swelling, and loss of function in joints, have reduced selenium levels in their blood. In addition, some individuals with arthritis have a low selenium intake. __The body's immune system naturally makes free radicals that can help destroy invading organisms and damaged tissue, but that can also harm healthy tissue. Selenium, as an antioxidant, may help to relieve symptoms of arthritis by controlling levels of free radicals. Current findings are considered preliminary, and further research is needed before selenium supplements can be recommended for individuals with arthritis.