This pilot study evaluated the feasibility and effectiveness of conducting a double-blind clinical trial for the prevention of lung cancer with selenium (Se) in Yunnan Tin Corporation, the People's Republic of China, where the incidence rates of lung cancer are extraordinarily high among the miners. Forty healthy miners were randomized to either 300 micrograms of Se in high Se malt cakes or an identical placebo of malt cakes daily for one year. Subjects consumed their usual daily diet. The low Se concentrations in plasma (0.05 +/- 0.008 microgram/mL) and hair (0.442 +/- 0.085 microgram/g) reflected their low dietary Se intake in the control subjects. In Se-supplemented group, the Se status was increased by 178% for serum and 194.8% for hair. The serum GSHpx activity was increased by 155.7%, whereas the lipid peroxide level was reduced by 74.5% compared to the placebo. The results of UDS assay indicated that the lymphocyte DNA damage induced by ultraviolet irradiation and carcinogen 3,4-benzpyrene could be protected by Se supplementation. Se-supplementation did not affect the liver function test (SGPT), as well as the concentrations of hemoglobin, albumin, and cholesterol. Thus, daily intake of 300 micrograms Se in form of Se-malt as a chemopreventive measure is safe and effective to humans with low Se status.