A new study is suggesting that for certain groups of men a high dietary intake of selenium may reduce their risk of prostate cancer.
The study has found that the benefit applied only to those men who reported a high vitamin E intake and those who were taking multivitamins.
Dr. Ulrike Peters, of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, and colleagues used data from the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial and tracked 724 incident prostate cancer case subjects and 879 control subjects over an eight year period.
The team compared selenium in blood samples collected before diagnosis from the subjects who developed prostate cancer and from a comparison group of similar men who remained free of the disease and participants were surveyed before entering the study for their dietary habits.
Previous studies have also found that high serum levels of selenium were linked with reduced risk of prostate cancer; a study published in the December 2001 issue of The Journal of Urology found that low levels of serum selenium was associated with a 4 to 5 times increased risk of prostate cancer.
This latest study set out to examine interrelations between selenium as an antioxidative agent and oxidative stressors such as smoking and to also establish if serum selenium is linked with a lower risk of prostate cancer.
The researchers found that overall there was no link between serum selenium and prostate cancer risk in the cohort, but those in the highest quartile of serum selenium who reported a high vitamin E intake experienced a 42 percent reduced risk of prostate cancer compared to those in the lowest.
While among men who used multivitamins, those in the highest quartile of selenium in their blood were 39 percent less likely to develop prostate cancer.
Among the smokers, the high serum selenium was linked to a 35 percent reduced risk of prostate cancer.
The intention of the study was not to establish a causal relation between serum selenium and prostate cancer and the results do not suggest that taking selenium supplements would or would not reduce risk of prostate cancer.
However selenium is regarded as an antioxidant that helps prevent cells from being damaged by free radials which can cause damage to DNA leading to cancers.
It is found naturally in Brazil nuts, shrimp, crab meat, salmon, halibut, and brown rice.
The study is published in the January issue of American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.