Along with Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's, cancer is one of the most feared diseases we face. No one wants to suffer from the pain and agony of this disease. So wouldn't it be great if we could predict our risk of getting cancer? Well, new research takes us one step closer to doing just that — and it starts with a simple mineral deficiency.
In a recent study from Germany, researchers wanted to find out if a deficiency of the nutrient selenium was predictive of liver cancer. This team of researchers investigated a cohort of 477,000 participants. They hand selected individuals who had developed hepatocellular carcinoma (liver cancer) during a 10-year follow up. Then they took blood samples from these cancer victims and compared them to blood samples from healthy participants to determine their selenium levels.
But they didn't stop there. They also wanted to find out how far selenium levels influence the development of other types of cancer.
What's worse, they also have higher counts of pathogenic strains of bacteria. This leaves patients vulnerable to hospital-acquired infections that may lead to sepsis, organ failure, and potentially death.
We've known for some time that taking selenium helps prevent and even fight many types of cancer. But there haven't been many studies like this to determine if a deficiency could predict the disease.
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Sure enough, the researchers found that high blood-selenium levels are indeed associated with a decreased risk of developing liver cancer. And, likewise, low blood-selenium levels are equally associated with an increased risk. In fact, the researchers said a low blood-selenium level is a “major risk factor for liver cancer. According to our data, the third of the population with lowest selenium status have a five- to ten-fold increased risk of developing” the disease. But that's not all. They found a similar association with other types of cancer as well.
In addition to cancer, a low blood-selenium level can lead to many other diseases as well. These include autoimmune thyroid disease and keshan disease (which can lead to heart problems), as well as fatigue, brain fog, loss of hair and discolored nails, low immunity, and even reproductive problems. Low selenium is also associated with prostate, lung, stomach, and skin cancer.
So if you're wanting to maintain your health, make sure you're getting ample selenium. This starts with your diet. You can find selenium in foods like fish, shellfish, meat, milk and eggs, and some nuts (Brazil nuts). If your levels are still low, you can take a selenium supplement. The usual dose is 200 mcg daily. One Brazil nut will give you this much, so don't eat too many of these at one time. Toxicity is rare. If you have stomach upset, then back off the dosage and let your stomach settle down. And, finally, taking selenium with vitamin E helps its absorption.
Your insider for better health,
Steve Kroening, ND
Hughes DJ, et al. Prediagnostic selenium status and hepatobiliary cancer risk in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition cohort. Am J Clin Nutr., 2016 DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.116.131672