American Association for Cancer Research

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Increasing Selenium Intake May Decrease Bladder Cancer Risk


August 31, 2010

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• 39 percent reduced risk seen in a meta-analysis.
• Selenium effects may vary according to individual’s characteristics.

PHILADELPHIA — A common mineral may provide protection against bladder cancer.

According to results of a study published in the September issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, selenium intake is associated with decreased risk of bladder cancer.

“The lower the levels of selenium, the higher the risk of developing bladder cancer,” said lead researcher Núria Malats, M.D., Ph.D., leader of the Genetic and Molecular Epidemiology Group, Human Cancer Genetics Program, Spanish National Cancer Research Center.

Selenium is an essential micronutrient that is incorporated into about 25 proteins, called selenoproteins. Most of these selenoproteins are enzymes with antioxidant properties that prevent cellular damage caused by the by-products of oxygen metabolism, according to Malats.

The main dietary sources of this micronutrient are plant foods grown in selenium-rich soils, animals who graze on these soils and selenium-enriched products.

Using data from seven previously published studies, Malats and colleagues conducted a meta-analysis to evaluate selenium levels measured in serum and toenails and the risk of developing bladder cancer. The data included individuals mostly from the United States, but also from Belgium, Finland and the Netherlands.

The researchers noted a significant protective effect of selenium, mainly among women, which they believe may result from gender-specific differences in the mineral’s accumulation and excretion in women.

“Although our results suggest a beneficial effect of high selenium intake for bladder cancer risk, more studies are needed to confirm these findings before an enforcement of high selenium intake is recommended,” Malats said.

Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention Editorial Board Member Elizabeth A. Platz, Sc.D., M.P.H., said, “these findings provide a valuable lead for what to do next to understand if there is a role for selenium supplementation in bladder cancer prevention.”

The next research step is to address the dose-response relationship. Addressing this relationship is of public health importance for setting recommended daily intakes for selenium and for targeting subsets of the population for selenium supplementation, added Platz, who is a professor in the department of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

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The mission of the American Association for Cancer Research is to prevent and cure cancer. Founded in 1907, the AACR is the world’s oldest and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research. The membership includes 32,000 basic, translational and clinical researchers; health care professionals; and cancer survivors and advocates in the United States and more than 90 other countries. The AACR marshals the full spectrum of expertise from the cancer community to accelerate progress in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer through high-quality scientific and educational programs. It funds innovative, meritorious research grants, research fellowship and career development awards. The AACR Annual Meeting attracts more than 17,000 participants who share the latest discoveries and developments in the field. Special conferences throughout the year present novel data across a wide variety of topics in cancer research, treatment and patient care. The AACR publishes six major peer-reviewed journals: Cancer Research; Clinical Cancer Research; Molecular Cancer Therapeutics; Molecular Cancer Research; Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention; and Cancer Prevention Research. The AACR also publishes CR, a magazine for cancer survivors and their families, patient advocates, physicians and scientists. CR provides a forum for sharing essential, evidence-based information and perspectives on progress in cancer research, survivorship and advocacy.

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