High Levels of Selenium Decreases Incidence of Skin Cancer. Annapolis MD

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Kevin B Knopf
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Curtis Harris Jr, MD
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Curtis Harris
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High Levels of Selenium Decreases Incidence of Skin Cancer.

High Levels of Selenium Decreases Incidence of Skin Cancer.
Date: Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Source: Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers Prevention
Related Monographs: Selenium
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Skin cancer is the abnormal growth of skin cells and most often develops on skin exposed to the sun. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. The two most common types are basal cell cancer (develops in the basal cell layer of the skin) and squamous cell cancer (develops in the squamous cells that make up most of the skin's upper layers - epidermis). The cancer usually forms on the head, face, neck, hands and arms. Another type of skin cancer, melanoma (develops in the cells that produce melanin - the pigment that gives your skin its color), is more dangerous but less common. You should have your doctor check any suspicious skin markings and any changes in the way your skin looks. Treatment is more likely to work well when cancer is found early. If not treated, some types of skin cancer cells can spread to other tissues and organs.

Anyone can get skin cancer, but it is more common in people who
? Spend a lot of time in the sun or have been sunburned
? Have light-colored skin, hair and eyes
? Have a family member with skin cancer
? Are over age 50

Until the late 1950s, selenium was thought to be toxic. Although it can indeed be toxic at high doses, it is now recognized as an important nutritional trace mineral. Selenium plays important roles in detoxification and antioxidant defense mechanisms in the body. The symptoms of selenium deficiency include: destructive changes to the heart and pancreas, sore muscles, increased red blood cell fragility, and a weakened immune system. The primary cause of selenium deficiency is insufficient dietary intake due to either poor food choices or eating foods grown in selenium-depleted soils.

Antioxidant nutrients, which include carotenoids, vitamin E and selenium can prevent skin damage caused by ultraviolet rays from sunlight, but it is unclear whether these nutrients can influence skin cancer risk. A recent study sought to determine whether there is any association between serum concentrations of antioxidant nutrients and skin cancer. The study included 485 patients who were followed from 1994 to 2004. They provided blood samples, which the researchers measured for levels of carotenoids, vitamin E and selenium and their relation to basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma occurrence. The researchers found that while no relationship was found between serum carotenoids or vitamin E levels and skin cancer risk, there was a significant relationship with selenium. The results revealed that those with the high blood levels of selenium had a 57% decreased risk of basal cell carcinoma and a 63% reduced risk of squamous cell carcinoma, compared to those with the lowest selenium blood levels. It appears that high serum levels of selenium are associated with a decreased risk of future skin cancer.1

1 van der Pols JC, Heinen MM, Hughes MC, et al. Serum antioxidants and skin cancer risk: an 8-year community-based follow-up study. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2009;18(4):1167-73.

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