Taking supplements of selenium and vitamin E beyond the recommended dietary intake could increase risk of prostate cancer, according to a new study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute today (21 February 2014).
Researchers from the Cancer Prevention Program at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in Seattle investigated toenail samples and data drawn from a previous study led by the National Cancer Institute. Analysis of the samples suggested that while baseline selenium level alone was not associated with higher prostate cancer risk, men with high levels of selenium topped up with taking selenium supplements had a 91 per cent increased risk of developing high risk cancer. Conversely, men with low levels of selenium who took vitamin E supplements saw an increased risk of prostate cancer which was not found in those men with high baseline selenium levels.
The authors conclude that given the study’s finding of increased risk of prostate cancer and lack of evidence of public health benefits, men over 55 should avoid supplements such as vitamin E and selenium.
Dr Matthew Hobbs, Deputy Director of Research at Prostate Cancer UK said:
‘It is very difficult to draw any useful conclusions from this paper that would be applicable to all men. We would need to see data from much longer studies that look at the total health impact of selenium or vitamin E supplements before we could say if the small effects on the chance of getting prostate cancer suggested by this study outweigh any general benefits to health.
If men are concerned about their prostate cancer risk, rather than worrying about selenium and vitamin E supplements, they should talk to a GP or visit our website to find out more information.’