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J Trace Elem Med Biol. 2005;19(2-3):141-50. Epub 2005 Oct 24.

Chemical forms of selenium for cancer prevention.

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Department of Public Health, Graduate School of Medicine, Gunma University, 3-39-22, Showa-machi, Maebashi City, Gunma 371-8511, Japan.


Cancer is becoming an increasingly significant disease worldwide. Currently, more than 7 million people die each year from cancer. With the existing knowledge, at least one-third of worldwide cancer cases could be prevented. Searching for naturally occurring agents in routinely consumed foods that may inhibit cancer development, although challenging, constitutes a valuable and plausible approach to the control and prevention of cancer. To date, the use of the micronutrient selenium (Se) in human clinical trials is limited, but the outcome indicates that Se is among the most promising agents. Although it is convenient to describe the effects of Se in terms of the element, it must always be kept in mind that the chemical form of Se and the dose are determinants of its biological activities. Hyphenated techniques based on coupling chromatographic separation with inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometric (ICP-MS) detection are now established as the most realistic and potent analytical tools available for real-life speciation analysis. These speciation investigations provide evidence that the Se compounds, which can generate monomethylated Se (e.g., Se-methylselenocysteine and methylseleninic acid), are more efficacious than other Se compounds because of their chemoprevention activity.

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