Selenium and prostate cancer: systematic review and meta-analysis

Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Jul;96(1):111-22. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.111.033373. Epub 2012 May 30.


Background: Prostate cancer is a growing public health problem. Several human studies have shown a potentially protective effect of selenium, but the conclusions from published reports are inconsistent.

Objective: The objective was to examine the evidence for relations between selenium intake, selenium status, and prostate cancer risk.

Design: This was a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials, case-control studies, and prospective cohort studies. The World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research Continuous Update Project database was searched up to September 2010. The studies included reported measurements of selenium intake or status (plasma, serum, or toenail selenium), assessments of prostate cancer cases (number of events), and the RR in the adult population. Meta-analyses were performed, and study quality, heterogeneity, and small study effects were assessed. Dose-response meta-analyses were used, with restricted cubic splines and fractional polynomials for nonlinear trends, to investigate the association between selenium status and prostate cancer risk.

Results: Twelve studies with a total of 13,254 participants and 5007 cases of prostate cancer were included. The relation between plasma/serum selenium and prostate cancer in a nonlinear dose-response meta-analysis showed that the risk decreased with increasing plasma/serum selenium up to 170 ng/mL. Three high-quality studies included in the meta-analysis of toenail selenium and cancer risk indicated a reduction in prostate cancer risk (estimated RR: 0.29; 95% CI: 0.14, 0.61) with a toenail selenium concentration between 0.85 and 0.94 μg/g.

Conclusion: The relation between selenium status and decreased prostate cancer risk was examined over a relatively narrow range of selenium status; further studies in low-selenium populations are required.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Diet* / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nails / chemistry
  • Nutritional Status
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / blood
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / etiology
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Risk Factors
  • Selenium / administration & dosage*
  • Selenium / analysis
  • Selenium / blood
  • Selenium / deficiency


  • Selenium