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Health News Archive 272 - Colon Cancer
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Selenium Helps Protect Against Colon Cancer

As the fourth most common cancer in men behind skin, prostate, and lung cancer, colorectal cancer was diagnosed in 71,820 U.S. men in 2005. Since its cause is unknown and doctors can seldom explain why one person develops the disease and another does not, all we have right now are risk factors to identify who has a greater risk of getting the disease.  These colon cancer risk factors include being over 50 years of age, the presence of colorectal polyps (growths on the inner wall of the colon or rectum) and family history.

Fortunately, research has identified a number of ways to help prevent colon cancer, including fiber, broccoli, vitamin B6, cranberry, olive oil and magnesium. Even refraining from laxative use can help prevent colon cancer.

A study in the February 2006 issue of Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention says selenium may help prevent colon cancer.

In the study, researchers studied the association of blood levels of selenium and advanced colorectal adenoma, a cancer precursor, in 758 cases and 767 controls, randomly selected from the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial.  Researchers found that those with the highest selenium blood levels had a 24% reduced risk of colon cancer compared to those with the lowest blood levels. The biggest prevention against colon cancer was a 47% decreased risk found in those who recently quit smoking, though none was seen in those who quit more than 10 years ago.

The researchers wrote, “Selenium may reduce the risk of developing advanced colorectal adenoma, particularly among the high-risk group of recent smokers.”

According to the National Institute of Health’s Office on Dietary Supplements, the recommended dietary intake of selenium varies, from 20 micrograms per day for infants to 70 micrograms per day for lactating mothers.


Peters U. High Serum Selenium and Reduced Risk of Advanced Colorectal Adenoma in a Colorectal Cancer Early Detection Program. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2006;15(2):315–20.

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