FDA Agrees: Selenium Reduces Risk of Some Cancers
Companies that manufacture selenium supplements will now be permitted by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to claim that selenium supplements may reduce the risk of some cancers, according to a statement by the FDA. Although the FDA does not permit manufacturers to list specific types of cancer in the health claim, studies suggest selenium supplementation may reduce the risk of colon, prostate, lung, liver, and esophageal cancers.
This announcement follows on the heels of a recent decision by the FDA to ease the restrictions preventing food and dietary supplement manufacturers from putting specific health claims on their product labels. The new guidelines allow companies to provide health benefit information if the scientific evidence supporting the information outweighs the evidence against it. The FDA is allowing selenium products to state, “May reduce the risk of certain cancers. Some scientific evidence suggests that consumption of selenium may reduce certain forms of cancer.” The label must also include the disclaimer, “The FDA has determined that this evidence is limited and not conclusive.”
The new health claim may have a significant impact on public health in the United States. The American Cancer Society estimates more than 1.2 million new cases of cancer will be diagnosed this year alone, in addition to the 16 million people who already have cancer. It is the second leading cause of death in the United States and kills more than 500,000 people every year. Educating consumers about the benefits of supplemental selenium in reducing cancer risk will allow them to make decisions that may help lessen the incidence of new cancers.
Selenium is a trace mineral that is found in most cells in the body and is important in many biological functions. It defends the body against oxidative damage, helps maintain other antioxidants in the body (such as vitamin C and glutathione), regulates thyroid hormone action, stimulates the immune system, and aids in detoxification. Some of these effects of selenium may explain its anticancer activity. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for selenium for both men and women is 55 mcg per day, but higher amounts may be necessary to lower the risk of cancer. The FDA warns that the daily intake of selenium should not exceed 400 mcg unless supervised by a doctor. Adverse effects (including brittle hair and nails, skin rash, and neurological damage) have been observed in people taking more than 900 mcg per day of selenium.
Foods rich in selenium include organ meats, seafood, cereals and grains, dairy products, Brazil nuts, and high-selenium Brewer’s yeast. Selenium may be found in supplemental form as sodium selenite or L-selenomethionine.
Darin Ingels, ND, MT (ASCP), received his bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and his Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. Dr. Ingels is the author of The Natural Pharmacist: Lowering Cholesterol (Prima, 1999) and Natural Treatments for High Cholesterol (Prima, 2000). He currently is in private practice at New England Family Health Associates located in Southport, CT, where he specializes in environmental medicine and allergies. Dr. Ingels is a regular contributor to Healthnotes and Healthnotes Newswire.
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