Selenium supplements may cut risk of death from breast cancer

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By David Liu, PHD

Saturday June 29, 2012 ( -- A new study in Breast Cancer Research and Treatment suggests that selenium deficiency may boost risk of death from breast cancer.

The study led by Holly R. Harris of Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden and colleagues found women with breast cancer who had the highest intake of selenium were 31 percent less likely to die from the disease, compared to those having the lowest intake.

Selenium is known to be a cofactor in the production of antioxidant enzymes that may play a role in cancer progression.  Selenium supplementation has been demonstrated to reduce cancer mortality in nutritional intervention trials, according to the researchers.
For the study, the researchers surveyed the dietary intake of selenium in 3,146 women with invasive breast cancer who participating in the population-based Swedish Mammography Cohort.  During the follow-up from 1987 to 2009, 416 women died from breast cancer and 964 women died from all causes. 

Dietary selenium intake was found inversely associated with breast cancer–specific mortality and overall mortality.    Specifically, women with breast cancer with the lowest intake of selenium were 31 percent more likely to die from the disease, compared to those having the highest intake.

Among breast cancer patients who ever smoked, the inverse association between dietary selenium intake and breast cancer death seemed strongest, that is, those who had the lowest intake of selenium were 66 more likely to die, compared to those who did not smoke.

The researchers concluded "Our findings suggest that selenium intake before breast cancer diagnosis may improve breast cancer–specific survival and overall survival."

An estimated 210,000 women in the United States are expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012, according to the national Cancer Institute.  The disease and treatment-complications etc are expected to kill about 40,000 women in 2012.

Breast cancer in many cases is preventable.  Healthy lifestyle including following a healthy diet can help reduce the cancer risk.

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