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Increased selenium intake may reduce mortality risk in breast cancer patients

Published on

06 July 2012

Regular intake of selenium supplements seems to decrease risk of mortality in women with breast cancer, suggests a new Swedish study.

In this observational study, researchers surveyed the dietary intake of selenium in 3,146 women with invasive breast cancer and measured cases of breast cancer-related death over 12 years (1). The study results showed that women with the lowest intake of selenium were 31 percent more likely to die from breast cancer, compared to those with the highest intake. The association between dietary selenium intake and breast cancer -related death seemed strongest when taking smoking into account: of the group with the lowest intake of selenium, smokers were 66 more likely to die compared to non-smokers.

The researchers concluded that women who take selenium before being diagnosed with breast cancer may improve their chances of breast cancer–specific survival as well as improving their overall life expectancy. Selenium is known to be a cofactor in the production of antioxidant enzymes that may play a role in cancer survival.

An estimated 210,000 women in the United States are expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012, according to the National Cancer Institute. The disease alone, as well as complications which arise during treatment, are expected to kill about 40,000 of those women. Breast cancer is preventable in many cases. A healthy lifestyle, including following a healthy diet, can help reduce the risk of cancer, the scientists noted.


  1. Harris H. R. et al. Selenium intake and breast cancer mortality in a cohort of Swedish women. Breast Cancer Res Treat. Published online June 2012.

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