Increasing the daily intake of selenium from dietary and supplementary sources,
could cut the risk of bladder cancer by 70 per cent, suggests a new study from Belgium.
Continued coverage of positive results, like the new study published in theInternational
Journal of Urology (Vol. 13, pp. 1180-1184), could help further increase
public awareness of a mineral already associated with reducing the risk of prostate
and lung cancer, as well as boosting the immune system.
The European market for selenium supplements
is estimated to be worth around €40m. This suggests that there is potential
for food makers if they can improve consumer understanding of the mineral's benefits,
with selenium-enriched products largely ignored by companies, unlike the supplements
where a significant number of selenium products are available, both in combination
with other nutrients and alone.
The authors, led by Eliane Kellen from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, carried
out a population case-control study with 178 cases and 362 controls. Blood samples
were taken to assess serum selenium concentrations.
After accounting for sex, age, smoking and occupational exposure, the researchers
calculated that the risk of bladder
cancer was slashed by 70 per cent for those people with blood levels
of more than 96 micrograms per litre, compared to those with serum levels of less
than 82.4 micrograms per litre.
Serum selenium levels between 82.4 and 96 micrograms per litre were associated with
a 52 per cent risk reduction in bladder cancer risk.
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Every 10 micrograms per litre increase in serum selenium levels was associated with
a 14 per cent reduction in the risk of bladder cancer, a cancer that is diagnosed
in about 336,000 people every year worldwide, and that is three times more likely
to affect men than women, according to the European School of Oncology.
"This case-control study suggests an inverse association between serum selenium
concentration and bladder cancer risk," concluded the researchers.
The study has a number of limitations, particularly being based on case and controls,
and dietary consumption of selenium containing foods or supplements may have changed
on diagnosis of the bladder cancer. Also, since the study was epidemiological no
direct mechanistic study was conducted.
Significant further research is required, including more epidemiological studies
and randomised controlled trials in humans, to further confirm these results, as
well as investigating the underlying mechanism of how selenium appears to offer
European selenium levels have been falling since the EU imposed levies on wheat
imports from the US, where soil selenium levels are high. As a result, average intake
of selenium in the UK has fallen from 60 to 34 micrograms per day. Leading to calls
from some to enrich soil and fertilizers with selenium to boost public consumption.
The European recommended daily intake (RDI) is 65 micrograms.