Selenium biochemistry and cancer: a review of the literature

Altern Med Rev. 2004 Sep;9(3):239-58.


In recent years, the role of selenium in the prevention of a number of degenerative conditions including cancer, inflammatory diseases, thyroid function, cardiovascular disease, neurological diseases, aging, infertility, and infections, has been established by laboratory experiments, clinical trials, and epidemiological data. Most of the effects in these conditions are related to the function of selenium in antioxidant enzyme systems. Replenishing selenium in deficiency conditions appears to have immune-stimulating effects, particularly in patients undergoing chemotherapy. However, increasing the levels of selenoprotein antioxidant enzymes (glutathione peroxidase, thioredoxin reductase, etc.) appears to be only one of many ways in which selenium-based metabolites contribute to normal cellular growth and function. Animal data, epidemiological data, and intervention trials have shown a clear role for selenium compounds in both prevention of specific cancers and antitumorigenic effects in post-initiation phases of cancer.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Availability
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Proteins / metabolism
  • Proteins / physiology*
  • Selenium / metabolism
  • Selenium / physiology*
  • Selenoproteins
  • Thyroid Gland / physiology


  • Proteins
  • Selenoproteins
  • Selenium