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Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2011 Sep;20(9):1822-30. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-11-0364. Epub 2011 Jul 15.

Serum selenium, genetic variation in selenoenzymes, and risk of colorectal cancer: primary analysis from the Women's Health Initiative Observational Study and meta-analysis.

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Public Health Science Division, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, WA 98109-1024, USA.



Selenium may prevent colorectal cancer. However, several previous studies are small and few investigated the association between selenium and colorectal cancer among women whose selenium metabolism may differ from men. Furthermore, genetic variants in selenoenzymes may be associated with colorectal cancer risk.


This nested case-control study investigated whether serum selenium concentration and genetic variants in five selenoenzymes (glutathione peroxidase 1-4 and selenoprotein P) were associated with colorectal cancer risk in 804 colorectal cancer cases and 805 matched controls from the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) Observational Study. A meta-analysis was conducted to compare the WHI result with previous studies including 12 observational studies and two clinical trials on selenium.


Within the WHI, selenium concentrations were relatively high (mean = 135.6 μg/L) and were not associated with colorectal cancer risk (P(trend) = 0.10); the adjusted OR comparing the fifth with first quintile was 1.26 (95% CI, 0.91-1.73). Moreover, genetic variants in selenoenzymes were not significantly associated with colorectal cancer risk. Consistent with the finding in WHI, our meta-analysis showed no association between selenium and colorectal tumor risk in women (OR = 0.97; 95% CI, 0.79-1.18) comparing the highest quantile with the lowest); however, in men, there was a significant inverse association (OR = 0.68; 95% CI, 0.57-0.82) (P = 0.01).


Consistent with previous studies, we observed no protective effect of selenium on colorectal cancer among women.


Our analyses suggest that a population with relatively high selenium concentrations, especially women, would not benefit from increasing selenium intake.

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