Selenium for Cancer
Selenium has been used in conventional medicine for many years. Its original purpose was to treat dandruff, but through further research, selenium has proven to be beneficial in blocking certain chemical reactions that cause free radicals in the body, especially when used with vitamin C and E. Free radicals cause cancer cells to develop by changing the DNA. The effectiveness of selenium on cancerous tumors has been researched by many scientific studies over the years.
The average adult requires at least 55 micrograms (mcg) per day to have the minimal anti-cancer effects. Women who are pregnant, should get 60 mcg a day, while a woman who is breastfeeding should get 70 mcg a day. These are minimum amounts. For optimum benefits, the body needs 200 mcg.
Different studies show different amounts that can cause toxicity, as a result of too much selenium; therefore, it is advised not to exceed 400 mcg. If you do exceed that amount, the most common symptoms are an upset stomach, hair loss, or white blotches on your nails.
Selenium, Cancer Prevention
Earl Mindell RPh PhD suggests in his book Earl Mindell's Supplement Bible that the reason less Japanese men die from prostate cancer than American men is because their diet has four times the amount of selenium than American diets do. This is further proven in China, when comparing areas where soil is rich in selenium, and where soil is not. Food gets its selenium from the soil it grows in. Those who live in areas where the soil is rich in this mineral have a much lower frequency of cancer than those who live where it is not as available.
Due to scientists' suspicion that this element can prevent cancer, many studies have been performed. In test tube studies, cells have a very rapid reaction to selenium. Selenium repairs the cell and helps it have a healthy life cycle, protecting it against deforming, which eventually causes cancer. It is believed that selenium acts very quickly in the body as well.
Another study that was done at Cornell University and University of Arizona, showed that after five years, those who took 200 mcg a day were:
- 63% less likely to develop prostate tumors
- 58% less likely to develop colorectal cancers
- 46% less likely to develop lung malignancies
- 39% less likely to die from cancer
A study in 1996 done by Dr. Larry Clark of University of Arizona showed similar effects when studying 1,300 older people. Half were given a placebo, the other half given 200 mcg. After seven years, those who took the placebo were 42 percent more apt to have cancer than those who took the mineral. Of those who had cancer, the ones that did take selenium were half as likely to die.
There is one study that did not show this great effect on cancer and that was done in 2007 on organ transplant patients. People who undergo an organ transplant are more apt to get skin cancer linked to the human papillomavirus. Over the two year period that the study took place, there showed no difference in those who ended up with cancer and those who did not.
Cancer ProgressionClick thumbnail to view full-size
A Vitamin for Cancer Treatment and Other Things
Although your body needs at least 60 mcg, it has been found that 200 mcg has a greater effect on the body. Since it is hard to control how much selenium is in your diet, supplementation is highly recommended. Despite many of the studies about selenium supplementation and cancer prevention, the evidence is not yet thorough and has not yet been proven.
Although even if it does not stop cancer, selenium:
- Improves your immune system and ultimately decreases the chance of cold sores and shingles
- Benefits those who have HIV
- Improves fertility in men
- Helps stabilize diabetic insulin levels
- Improves your mood
- Decreases risk of clotting and protects against heart disease and stroke
- Slows aging progression
- Assists in healthy thyroid functioning
- Allows for healthier skin and hair
- Promotes eye health, and possibly prevents cataracts and macular degeneration
- Increases good cholesterol (HDL) and decreases bad cholesterol (LDL)
Selenium and Chemotherapy
Selenium in combination with vitamin C and E make chemotherapy safer and more effective, because it is a great antioxidant, preventing the free radicals that occur as a result of the chemotherapy. By taking selenium, patients who are on chemotherapy have shown to have less side effects than those who do not take the supplement. Part of this is because chemotherapy actually reduces the amount of selenium in a person's body. Therefore, by taking the supplement, you are replacing what the chemotherapy has removed from your body. Another great benefit is because selenium binds with platinum and other heavy metals, which causes chemotherapy to be less toxic.
Not only does selenium help reverse the side effects of chemotherapy, but it also enhances the effectiveness of chemo, radiation, and hyperthermia, which Patrick Quillin points out in his book Beating Cancer with Nutrition.
In one study of 62 women, they studied women with ovarian cancer averaging 50 years-old. They studied the side effects of chemotherapy and the effect selenium had as a result. They had a combination of several minerals such as beta-carotene, vitamin C and E, riboflavin, and niacin. One group had this combination with selenium, one group had them without selenium. For three months they took these once a day. Within the study, they tracked the severity of the person's side effects of chemo, markers of free radical activity within the body, as well as red and white blood cell counts.
The results showed the selenium group:
- Had higher amounts of glutathione peroxidase in red blood cells, which indicates improved antioxidant activity
- Had more neutrophils in white blood cells, which is responsible for fighting off infections
- Experienced less nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, gas, mouth sores, weakness, hair loss, and malaise
- Had better appetites
- Had the same amount of diarrhea as other groups
In addition to helping those with chemotherapy, selenium helps slow the progression of cancer, as well as prevents the onset of it. There are so many great benefits to taking 200 mcg of selenium, that it should be part of our daily routine. If you do have cancer, then you should begin discussing with your doctor the benefits of taking selenium, especially if you will be treated with chemotherapy.
© 2012 Angela Michelle Schultz