12 January - 20 June 2016

Selenium and vitamin E supplements increase risk of prostate cancer

26 Feb 14

A study led by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center has found that selenium and vitamin E supplements may increase the risk of prostate cancer in men over 55. 35,533 subjects participated in the study, which was discontinued after 7 of the 12 years it was planned to run as no benefits from the supplements had been found whilst increased risk was observed.

The study was designed to investigate three questions: whether baseline selenium levels had an effect on prostate cancer rates, whether selenium supplements had a beneficial effect on men with low baseline levels, and whether vitamin E supplements increased risk. It was found that, contrary to findings from previous trials, baseline selenium levels appeared to have no effect on the risk of developing the cancer. These baseline levels did, however, impact on how the subjects responded to supplementary selenium and vitamin E. The low-baseline participants were found to have increased risk after taking vitamin E supplements (not in combination with selenium supplements), whilst the high-baseline participants experience increased risk if they took supplementary selenium (not in combination with the vitamin E).

The researchers concluded that men over 55 should avoid supplements of both substances over the daily recommended limit, given the risks identified. [Eurekalert]

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