, Volume 1, Issue 3, pp 389-395
Date: 29 Jun 2010

Selenium in the prevention of human cancers

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Selenium is an essential element with remarkable chemical properties. The similarity to sulphur results in a number of chemical interactions mainly connected to thiols and redox processes. The element modulates cell growth; in low concentrations it is absolutely required for growth and an essential component of serum free growth media. However moderate to high concentrations potently inhibit cell growth. The inhibitory effects are tumour specific and selenium induces apoptosis in malignant cells at concentrations that do not affect the viability of normal cells. Depending on concentration and chemical form selenium may prevent or treat tumour disease. Selenium supplementation has been found to be of value in preventing hepatocellular cancer by hepatitis B, in reducing the incidence of liver cancer in general and in decreasing mortality of colorectal, lung and prostate cancer. This review focuses on the current knowledge of the preventive effects of selenium with special emphasis on major human tumours. The unique chemical properties along with metabolism and preventive mechanisms are also discussed.