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Can selenium supplements help prevent cancer?

Dariush Mozaffarian, MD
Internal Medicine
High selenium intakes and high blood levels of selenium are associated with a lower than average risk of dying from cancer, including lung, colon, and prostate cancers, according to a handful of observational studies. And people who live in areas of the United States with low soil selenium levels have higher rates of nonmelanoma skin cancer. A study of people recruited from dermatology clinics who took 200 mcg of selenium daily found that while the supplement did not affect skin cancer recurrence rates, it did lower the number of cases and deaths from all cancers combined.

However, the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT) found no benefit from selenium supplements. In fact, the men who took selenium had slightly higher rates of diabetes than men taking a placebo. Bottom line: There are no known benefits to selenium supplements.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.