Perhaps selenium can prevent hereditary breast cancer

May 30, 2005

Women with a genetic tendency towards breast cancer have unstable chromosomes. Studies now show that these chromosomes can be stabilized by taking selenium supplements.
About every twenty cases of breast cancer are due to inheritance. Most often, the cause is an innate mutation in the so-called BRCA1 gene, which, under normal circumstances, repairs damage to chromosomes.

If you carry this mutation, you already have a high risk of breast cancer: Approximately 60% will get the disease before they reach 50, and approximately 85% will get it before they reach 70. At the same time, the risk of ovarian cancer is no less than 60%.

It is a despairing situation to be born with this mutation, which presents the affected with difficult decisions. Some prefer to prevent the cancer by having their breasts and ovaries removed at a young age, while others wait and see if they are among the unlucky ones. Those affected must at least think about having the children they want at a young age if they want to retain the opportunity to breastfeed. There is no certainty as to when the disease will strike.

Now, however, a highly interesting Polish study suggests that the risk can be significantly reduced with a simple supplement of selenium. The supplement drastically reduces the frequency of chromosomal damage in women with the congenital defect. This can, if the results hold, buy the vulnerable women time and reduce their risk of instability in the protective chromosomes.

The experiment was carried out at the Pomeranian Academy of Medicine in Szczecin. It was about measuring the amount of mutations – so-called chromosome breaks – on white blood cells, which in the laboratory were exposed to “chemical radiation” in the form of the chemotherapy drug bleomycin.

Two experiments were performed. In one, chromosome breaks were compared in 26 women with and 26 women without the congenital defect. In the first, 0.59 fractures per cell were measured, while women without the defect had only 0.39.

35 other women, all of whom were carriers of the mutation, now participated in the second trial. Half of them received a daily supplement of approx. 280 mcg selenium a day, after which they had blood samples taken after 1-3 months, so that their blood cells could also be exposed to bleomycin. The result was almost exactly as in the first experiment: In the blood cells of the women who did not receive selenium, 0.63 chromosome breaks occurred per cell, while those who received the selenium had only 0.40 fractures per. cell.

In other words, women with the inherited mutation could increase the stability of their chromosomes to normal with something as simple as a daily selenium supplement. The question then is how this is to be interpreted. Does this mean that they also had their cancer risk reduced?

There are many indications of this, but one cannot be sure. Researchers have concluded that hereditary breast cancer is due in part to unstable chromosomes. Others have found that breast cancer patients have clearly more chromosomal abnormalities in their white blood cells than healthy ones. In addition, several experiments have shown a correlation between the susceptibility to cancer in general and the level of chromosome rupture.

In addition, a study of 3,812 workers who were exposed to mutation-promoting substances showed that those who had the most chromosomal abnormalities were also most likely to get cancer later on. The clues are many.

Selenium has an antioxidant effect and has been shown to be strongly anti-cancer in several trials. As the soil in Poland (just like Denmark) is very low in selenium, the researchers believe that a similar experiment in other countries could give a different result.

The participants received the equivalent of approx. three regular selenium tablets with organic selenium a day. It is a dose that certainly does not exceed what is allowed.

By: Vitality Council

Kowalska E. et al. Increased rates of chromosome breakage in BRCA1 carriers are normalised by oral selenium supplementation. Cancer Epidem Biomarkers Prev 2005;14(5):1302-6.

Perhaps Prostate Cancer may be a Rarity in the Future

April 1, 2005

Every forth man lives with a highly increased risk of getting cancer of the prostate, the next most frequent cause to cancer deaths in men. It does not have to be like that. Exactly these exposed men could easily decrease their risk to a tenth.

Researchers from Harvard University in Boston have published a landmark study. It strongly suggests that most cases of cancer in the prostate are due to lack of balance in the body’s defense against free oxygen radicals. And most importantly: This balance can be restored with antioxidants – especially with selenium, but also vitamin E and the red dye of the tomatoes, lycopene. Prostate cancer can thus become a rare disease.

The imbalance occurs especially in men who get too little selenium and who, for hereditary reasons, have a particularly effective antioxidant enzyme (manganese-containing SOD) in their mitochondria. The mitochondria are the cells’ internal energy factories, which are worn down by free oxygen radicals with age. This wear and tear, parenthetically noted, is believed to be a very significant cause of aging and age-related diseases.

One would therefore think that it was an advantage to have a particularly effective antioxidant enzyme in one’s mitochondria. But very often it is not. The SOD enzyme transforms free oxygen radicals into the less risky hydrogen peroxide, but this creates a new problem: the hydrogen peroxide must also be removed, since it also causes harmful oxygenation. The removal requires an enzyme (glutathione peroxidase), the quantity of which depends on the supply of selenium.

The more free oxygen radicals (e.g. from smoking) that need to be neutralized and the more efficient the SOD enzyme is, the more harmful hydrogen peroxide accumulates and the greater the need for selenium.

Balance in things
The Harvard study is part of a study of approx. 15,000 American doctors who have been followed since 1982. Around 1990, 275 of them had developed serious prostate cancer, and it was those who were primarily found interesting.

By: Vitality Council

1. Haojie Li et al. : Manganese superoxide dismutase polymorphism, prediagnostic antioxidant status, and risk of clinical significant prostate cancer. Cancer Res. 2005;65:2498-2504.
2. Woodson et al. Manganese superoxide dismutase (MnSOD) polymorphism, α-tocopherol supplementation and prostate cancer risk in the α-Tocopherol, β-Carotene Cancer Prevention Study. Cancer Causes Control 2003;14:513-8
3. Niels Hertz. Selen – et livsvigtigt spormineral. Forlaget Ny Videnskab 2002.;jsessionid=2sf53q49osdn1.victoria

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Joseph E. Pizzorno Jr., Michael T. Murrey & Melvyn R. Werbach.