Selenium nanoparticle (Nano-Se) is a novel Se species with novel biological activities and low toxicity. In the present study, we demonstrated a simple method for synthesis of size-controlled Nano-Se by adding Undaria pinnatifida polysaccharides to the redox system of selenite and ascorbic acid. A panel of four human cancer cell lines was shown to be susceptible to Nano-Se, with IC(50) values ranging from 3.0 to 14.1 microM. Treatment of A375 human melanoma cells with the Nano-Se resulted in dose-dependent cell apoptosis as indicated by DNA fragmentation and phosphatidylserine translocation. Further investigation on intracellular mechanisms found that Nano-Se treatment triggered apoptotic cell death in A375 cells with the involvement of oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction. Our results suggest that Nano-Se may be a candidate for further evaluation as a chemopreventive and chemotherapeutic agent for human cancers, especially melanoma cancer.