SELENIUM & SKIN

Selenium supplements may raise the risk of squamous cell skin cancer slightly.

Between 1983 and 1993, researchers studied more than 1,300 residents of the Southeast who had been treated for a previous squamous or basal cell skin cancer. (Levels of selenium in the soil are low in that part of the country.) Each got a selenium supplement (200 mcg a day) or a placebo to see if the nutrient would cut their risk of a subsequent cancer.

After 10 years, the researchers found no difference in skin cancer rates. But after 13 years, they detected a 25 percent higher risk of squamous cell cancers in the selenium takers than in the placebo takers.

What to do: This study also found a (unexpected) lower risk of prostate, colon, and lung cancers in selenium takers. In fact, researchers have since launched a trial in 32,000 men to see if selenium (and vitamin E) can protect the prostate. In the meantime, if you've already had a squamous cell cancer, stick to the latest recommended selenium intake (55 mcg a day).

J. Nat. Cancer Inst. 95: 1477, 2003.

Share this with your friends