Abstracted by Greg Arnold, DC, CSCS, from “Serum Antioxidants and Skin Cancer Risk: An 8-Year Community-Based Follow-up Study” in the April 2009 issue of the Journal Cancer, Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention. Posted July 8, 2009.
The National Cancer Institute estimates overall annual costs for cancer at about $107 billion ($37 billion for direct medical costs, $11 billion for lost productivity and $59 billion for mortality costs). Melanoma is the most common type of skin cancer, responsible for more than 8,000 of the nearly 11,000 deaths from skin cancer in 2007, according to the American Cancer Society (1). Among the other non-melanoma skin cancers, two of the most common are basal cell carcinoma (BCC – small, round cells in the base of the outer layer of skin) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC – flat cells that form on the surface of the skin) which make up most of the 1,000,000 new cases of nom-melanoma skin cancer each year (2). Now a new study (3) has found that selenium, a trace mineral with recommended intake that ranges from 20-70 micrograms per day (4), may help maintain skin health.
In the study, 485 patients from the Nambour Skin Study in Australia (5) were followed from 1996 to 2004. They provided blood samples, which the researchers measured for levels of carotenoids, vitamin E (as alpha-tocopherol) and selenium and relation to basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma occurrence.
While they didn’t find any relationship between total carotenoids or vitamin E levels and basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma occurrence, they did find a significant relationship with selenium. Specifically, those with the high blood levels of selenium (1.3-2.8 micromoles/Liter) had a 57% decreased risk of basal cell carcinoma and a 63% reduced risk of squamous cell carcinoma, compared to those with the lowest selenium blood levels (< 1.0 micromol/L).
For the researchers, “Relatively high serum selenium concentrations are associated with an 60% decrease in subsequent tumor incidence of both basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma, whereas serum concentrations of carotenoids or -tocopherol are not associated with later skin cancer incidence.”
- “Skin Cancer Facts” posted on http://www.cancer.org/
- “Skin Cancer” posted on http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/skin
- Van der Pols JC. Serum Antioxidants and Skin Cancer Risk: An 8-Year Community-Based Follow-up Study. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2009 18: 1167-1173, published online March 31, 2009.
- “Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Selenium” posted on http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/selenium.asp
- Green A, Beardmore G, Hart V, Leslie D, Marks R, Staines D. Skin cancer in a Queensland population. J Am Acad Dermatol 1988;19:1045–52.