Baseline characteristics and the effect of selenium supplementation on cancer incidence in a randomized clinical trial: a summary report of the Nutritional Prevention of Cancer Trial

Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2002 Jul;11(7):630-9.


The Nutritional Prevention of Cancer Trial was a randomized, clinical trial designed to evaluate the efficacy of selenium as selenized yeast (200 microg daily) in preventing the recurrence of nonmelanoma skin cancer among 1312 residents of the Eastern United States. Original secondary analyses through December 31, 1993 showed striking inverse associations between treatment and the incidence of total [hazard ratio (HR) = 0.61, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.46-0.82], lung, prostate, and colorectal cancer and total cancer mortality. This report presents results through February 1, 1996, the end of blinded treatment. Effect modification by baseline characteristics is also evaluated. The effects of treatment overall and within subgroups of baseline age, gender, smoking status, and plasma selenium were examined using incidence rate ratios and Cox proportional hazards models. Selenium supplementation reduced total (HR = 0.75, 95% CI = 0.58-0.97) and prostate (HR = 0.48, 95% CI = 0.28-0.80) cancer incidence but was not significantly associated with lung (HR = 0.74, 95% CI = 0.44-1.24) and colorectal (HR = 0.46, 95% CI = 0.21-1.02) cancer incidence. The effects of treatment on other site-specific cancers are also described. The protective effect of selenium was confined to males (HR = 0.67, 95% CI = 0.50-0.89) and was most pronounced in former smokers. Participants with baseline plasma selenium concentrations in the lowest two tertiles (<121.6 ng/ml) experienced reductions in total cancer incidence, whereas those in the highest tertile showed an elevated incidence (HR = 1.20, 95% CI = 0.77-1.86). The Nutritional Prevention of Cancer trial continues to show a protective effect of selenium on cancer incidence, although not all site-specific cancers exhibited a reduction in incidence. This treatment effect was restricted to males and to those with lower baseline plasma selenium concentrations.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Probability
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Prospective Studies
  • Reference Values
  • Risk Factors
  • Selenium / administration & dosage*
  • Skin Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Skin Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Skin Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Selenium