Selenium and oral cancer

Because many cancers take so long to develop, research studies with cancer as the endpoint require a long period of observation and are very expensive. Focus on intermediate endpoints such as bio-markers for the development of cancer are useful for assessing the value of  selenium supplements for cancer prevention. Pictured here: a histo-pathologic image showing squamous cell carcinoma in a biopsy specimen.

When we test the efficacy of selenium supplementation in the prevention of cancer, we often look at the effect of the selenium supplementation on bio-markers for the development of cancer.  Bio-markers are substances whose presence in blood or tissue indicates the concurrent presence of a disease or an infection.

An Indian (sub-continent) research study has shown that supplementation with selenium, zinc, riboflavin, and vitamin A significantly inhibits the development of bio-markers for oral cancers [Prasad].

Okay, because the selenium was administered as one component in a micro-nutrient cocktail, we cannot attribute the outcome solely to the selenium supplementation.  But it is a good bet that the selenium – through its incorporation into antioxidant selenoproteins – was a major factor in the beneficial health effects.  There is support for the idea that antioxidant supplements are effective cancer chemopreventive agents [Prasad]. read more