Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: September 15, 2006
Publication Date: May 1, 2008
Citation: Combs, G.F. 2008. The role of selenium in cancer prevention (abstract). The International Symposium on Selenium in Health and Disease. 14:2. Technical Abstract: This elucidation of the role of selenium in health occurred over the last six decades. This involved selenium first being found to be a toxicant, followed only later by its recognition as an essential nutrient. This pathway of discovery led to fundamental discoveries in metabolic biochemistry, virology and public health. These were, respectively, i) the discovery of a previously unrecognized amino acid, selenocysteine, and its unique mode of co-translational incorporation into specific selenoproteins; ii) the discovery that selenium deprivation can lead to genomic destabilization of RNA viruses; and iii) the discovery that selenium can effect reductions in cancer risk. The evolution of understanding of the health relevance of selenium has been unlike that of other nutrients, all of which were recognized due to the fatal outcomes of their deficiencies. Instead, the health consequences of Se deprivation are largely sub-clinical in nature, requiring other precipitating factors (e.g., vitamin E deficiency, viral exposure, etc.) to reveal the effects of compromised Se-enzymes and/or essential Se-metabolites. Also unlike other nutrients, supranutritional levels of selenium appears to have important anti-carcinogenic functions.