The Benefits of Selenium for Treating Cancer
Selenium's original purpose was to treat dandruff. Still, through further research, selenium has proven to be beneficial in blocking specific chemical reactions that cause free radicals in the body, primarily when used with vitamins C and E. Free radicals cause cancer cells to develop by changing the DNA. Many scientific studies have researched the effectiveness of selenium on cancerous tumors over the years.
The average adult requires at least 55 micrograms (mcg) per day to have 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 and Cancer Prevention
In the book, Earl Mindell's Supplement Bible, it points out that the Japanese diet has four times the amount of selenium. He hypothesizes that this is why fewer Japanese men get prostate cancer than American men, which is further proven in China when comparing areas where the soil is rich in selenium and where the ground 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 have studied the effects of selenium. 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 from deforming, which eventually causes cancer. Selenium acts very quickly in the body, as well.
Another study from Cornell University and the 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 the University of Arizona showed similar effects when studying 1,300 older people. Half received a placebo, and the other half received 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 done in 2007 on organ transplant patients that did not show this significant effect on cancer. People who undergo organ transplants are more apt to get skin cancer linked to the human papillomavirus. Over the two years that the study took place, there showed no difference in those who ended up with cancer and those who did not.
A Vitamin for Cancer Treatment and Other Things
Although your body needs at least 60 mcg, 200 mcg has a more significant effect on the body. Since it is hard to control how much selenium is in your diet, many doctors recommend supplementation. Despite many of the studies about selenium supplementation and cancer prevention, the evidence is not yet thorough enough to be proven.
Even if it does not entirely stop cancer, selenium:
- Improves your immune system and ultimately decreases the chance of cold sores and shingles
- Benefits to 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 more youthful 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 an excellent 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 fewer side effects than those who do not take the supplement. Part of this is because chemotherapy 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 to 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, and 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
Not only does it help those with chemotherapy, but it also slows the progression of cancer and assists in the prevention 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 have chemotherapy.
This article is for informational purposes only. Please consult a licensed healthcare professional for the best and safest treatment for your specific situation.
- Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT): Questions and Answers. (n.d.). Retrieved January 27, 2018, from http://www.cancer.gov/newscenter/qa/2008/selectqa
- Test ID: SES Selenium, Serum. (n.d.). Retrieved January 27, 2018, from https://www.mayomedicallaboratories.com/test-catalog/Clinical and Interpretive/9765
- The mineral selenium proves itself as powerful anti-cancer medicine. (n.d.). Retrieved January 27, 2018, from http://www.naturalnews.com/016446.html
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2012 Angela Michelle Schultz