Selenium, a trace element found in many foods and often used as a dietary supplement, has caused quite the media stir lately. With its antioxidant properties, it contributes to good health and has the potential to fight against cancer. Despite this, it has recently been the culprit of health concerns. A recent study out of UC San Francisco found that men with prostate cancer who consumed excess selenium had a significantly increased risk of death from prostate cancer.

The study prospectively followed 4459 men enrolled in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study who were diagnosed with localized prostate cancer from 1988 to 2010. The patients completed detailed surveys regarding vitamin and supplement use. The research found that selenium supplement users had a significantly increased risk of prostate cancer mortality. Men who consumed more than 140μg/day of supplemental selenium had a 2.6-fold increased risk of prostate cancer mortality compared to nonusers.

The SELECT trial (Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial) was a large trial published in 2008 and updated in 2011 that found no overall reduction in the incidence of prostate cancer risk from selenium supplements.

Selenium deficiency is rare, as most people get enough in their daily diets. For this reason, caution is warranted in men both with and without prostate cancer regarding selenium supplementation. These studies highlight that too much of this substance can be a bad thing.

Knowledge is important for the proper care of the body and for the prevention of disease, including prostate cancer.

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