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From the 1998 American Journal of Medicine


Below is an article on Selenium by GERHARD N. SCHRAUZER, Ph.D.

What is the exact nature of the means whereby selenium protects a person against cancer? How can it be better utilized by the medical profession in treating in situ malignancies?

Working Summary: Notice that selenium is effective only as a cancer preventive. It is an important nutrient. Selenium, an essential trace mineral, is a recently discovered anti-cancer agent. When a tiny amount (1-4 ppm) is added to the diet of lab animals, it protects against a wide variety of carcinogens. Many studies have also been made of the ability of selenium to protect people from toxic, cancer-causing substances.

For a number of years in the 1970s, Dr.Schrauzer studied the relationship of selenium to human cancers. As reported in a number of professional journals, he repeatedly found that it was highly effective as a cancer-preventive agent.

As a result of his research, Schrauzer was able to show that, for maximum protection, selenium should be given to a person from his earliest years. This is because even small children are now contracting cancer—and selenium only protects against cancer before the malignancy gains a foothold in the body! But, if given all along, if a tumor begins, the selenium, if continually given, will retard tumor development.

Selenium is a non-accumulating trace mineral; and other research by Schrauzer revealed that, if in mid-life the selenium intake is stopped, tumor proliferation will rapidly increase. Therefore do not stop taking it!

An epidemiologist, Raymond Shamberger, listed cancer rates in the states and major cities of America. Then he listed them again, according to the amount of selenium available in the diet. The two matched inversely. The more selenium in the diet, the lower the levels of cancer (Archives of Environmental Health, 31:231-35,1976).

In another study, this one of W.C. Willet, the serum selenium levels and risk of cancer, of over 10,000 men and women, were evaluated. Those with the lowest selenium levels had twice the risk of developing cancer (Lancet, 2(8342):130-33,1983).

Similar research of the 24 regions of China were done, with approximately the same results. It should be noted here that glutathione peroxidase is one of the most important antioxidant enzymes in our immune system. This enzyme protects the body against the destructive effects of hydroxyl free radicals,—yet glutathione peroxidase is selenium dependent. If there is a lack of that vital trace mineral in the tissues, this crucial enzyme will not be produced.

This enzyme is also an important anti-cancer factor. It should also be mentioned that selenium andselenium-containing compounds tend to bind with heavy metals (lead, mercury, cadmium,etc.) and carry them out of the body. Research studies reveal that exposure to even low levels of those metals can seriously deplete selenium and eliminate its anti-cancer power.

What would be the proper dosage amounts for selenium?

One study in China reported that a daily dose of 500 mcg of selenium over a period of several years is safe for healthy adults. Higher dosages for normal people could be toxic, but are necessary in the treatment of cancer.

Schrauzer reported that dosages of 2,000 to 5,000 mcg per day will produce toxic symptoms after several months. Yet, since these symptoms(nausea, weakness, and discoloration of the fingernails)are hardly ever overlooked, no instances of fatalities resulting from excess selenium have ever been reported.

Robert C. Donaldson was a St. Louis oncologist who decided to carry out research into the dosage amounts for selenium. In doing so, he made an important discovery: In most of his patients, the giving of normal doses of selenium (the amount healthy people should take as maintenance doses) did not produce much of an increase in the blood levels of cancer patients.

They were in such a nutrition-starved condition, that they needed far more! He found that very high oral doses must be given, before the blood level of selenium came up. He finally determined that, in nearly every case, he had to give 1,000 to 2,000 mcg of selenium daily until the blood levels came up, and then drop back down to a maintenance dose.

In one unusual case, Donaldson found it necessary to give 2,700 mcg/day for two months, followed by six weeks of 5,000 mcg/day before the blood level came up.

It should be understood that normal people would find such high dosages far too high, and the above-mentioned toxic symptoms would result, indicating that they must reduce their daily intake amount.

In all of this, keep three facts in mind: (1) The toxic symptoms are easily recognized, and therefore unlikely to ultimately produce dangerous results. (2) Selenium very quickly leaves the body, so reducing the daily intake quickly normalizes the amount in the system. (3) For that reason, stopping the intake entirely can actually be very dangerous. Donaldson found that, for some patients, significant and even dramatic tumor regression occurred when blood levels reached normal levels.

But for others, it did not occur until the levels reached .40 ppm to .50 ppm; and some required .80 ppm.

By way of comparison, a totally different study(one done in Finland and reported in 1984) found that subjects with serum selenium levels of less than 45 mcg/liter had three times the risk of developing cancer as subjects with serum selenium levels greater than 45 mcg/liter.