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Stanford Researcher Shows Selenium May Help Prevent Prostate Cancer

  [ 28 votes ]   [ Discuss This Article ] • November 30, 2001

Men with low blood levels of selenium, a trace element supplied in certain foods and supplements, are four to five times more likely to contract prostate cancer, according to a federally sponsored study published by a Stanford University urologist and colleagues.

James D. Brooks, MD, lead author of a paper in the Dec. 1 issue of the Journal of Urology, said the research confirmed that higher blood levels of selenium were associated with lower risks of prostate cancer.

"Perhaps the most interesting finding of this study was that blood selenium levels decreased with age - a fact not previously known. Furthermore, this study showed there was a direct connection between selenium and prostate cancer - older men with higher levels of selenium were at lower risk."

The study suggests that eating more selenium-rich foods, such as Brazil nuts and tuna, or taking a dietary supplement, may reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Brooks said further study is needed to determine if supplements will actually raise selenium levels in the blood.

Nevertheless, the researchers concluded that the results support the hypothesis that supplemental selenium may reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Because selenium in blood decreases with patient age, supplementation may be beneficial to older men.

A large study is now under way at Stanford and other major medical centers to test whether supplements will reduce prostate cancer rates. (Healthy men over age 55 may volunteer or receive details about the study at Stanford and other sites by calling the National Cancer Institute information line, 1-800-4-CANCER.)

Brooks' study included 52 men with prostate cancer and 96 men without the disease. The median age was just under 69. The men's health histories and medical risks have been tracked for many years as part of the federally sponsored Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging.

Prostate cancer is the No. 1 form of cancer affecting men, and a leading cause of cancer deaths among men, according to the American Cancer Society.

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