Low selenium levels are associated with colorectal cancer development

Low selenium levels are associated with colorectal cancer development

New evidence that the micronutrient selenium is involved in colorectal cancer (bowel cancer) has been discovered by Dr David Hughes from the Centre for Systems Medicine with colleagues in Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, the University of
Newcastle in England, the International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon,
France, and collaborators in the European Prospective Investigation of Cancer
and Nutrition Cohort (EPIC) study. The research is currently published online
(July 9th) in the International Journal of Cancer*

 The HRB funded research, led by Dr Hughes, indicates that selenium levels are suboptimal in many Western Europeans and suggest that higher serum selenium levels are associated with a decreased risk of colorectal cancer (CRC), which is more evident in women.

Many populations in Europe have intakes of selenium that are relatively low, especially compared with North America. The association of selenium status with CRC development is controversial due to conflicting results from both observational
studies and intervention trials.

The present study describes the results of the largest prospective analysis of the association of serum selenium status biomarkers [total serum Se levels and Selenoprotein P (SePP) protein concentrations] with risk of CRC in European populations. These are robust markers of Se status. The study was conducted within the EPIC cohort across ten European countries. This cohort provides a well-characterized, large set of participants in terms of diet and cancer risk.

The study shows that in many Western Europeans selenium levels are insufficient for adequate function of key proteins (such as SePP) that use selenium in important cellular processes. Higher selenium concentrations were inversely associated with CRC risk in women only while higher SePP concentrations were inversely associated with CRC risk in men and women combined. The results suggest that selenium intake/status is an important factor in affecting CRC risk in a population of marginally low
selenium status, such as in Europe.

The contrasting results of this study and those from the NPC and SELECT selenium intervention trials may be due to differences in baseline selenium levels of study participants. This likely helps to explain the controversy over outcomes from these selenium intervention trials in North America that has led to the prevalent perception among the scientific / medical community that increased selenium intake does not have any association with risk of CRC development. Our results suggest that in populations where selenium status is sub-optimal (e.g. Western Europe) increasing selenium intake may reduce CRC risk, especially for women. We believe our study provides a strong rationale for undertaking a selenium supplementation trial, including use of selenium status biomarkers, for CRC prevention in a population with sub-optimal Se availability.

*Manuscript reference:

Hughes DJ, Fedirko V, Jenab M, Schomburg L, Méplan C,
Freisling H, Bueno de Mesquita HB, Hybsier S, Becker NP, Czuban M, Tjønneland
A, Outzen M, Boutron-Ruault MC, Racine A, Bastide N,  Kühn T, Kaaks R,
Trichopoulos D, Trichopoulou A, Lagiou P, Panico S, Peeters PH, Weiderpass E,
Skeie G, Dagrun E, Chirlaque MD, Sánchez MJ, Ardanaz E, Ljuslinder I, Wennberg
M, Bradbury KE, Vineis P, Naccarati A, Palli D, Boeing H, Overvad K, Dorronsoro
M, Jakszyn P, Cross AJ, Ramón Quirós  J, Stepien M, Kong SY, Duarte-Salles
T, Riboli E, Hesketh JE.<a href=”http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25042282
target=”_blank”> Selenium Status is Associated with Colorectal
Cancer risk in the European Prospective Investigation of Cancer and Nutrition
Cohort.</a> Int J Cancer. 2014 Jul 9. [Epub ahead of print] PMID: