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It happens very often that a vitamin, mineral, or a combination of them in a supplement form is said to reduce the risk of cancer. Often times these are things that are found in our daily diet when eating healthy. The benefits of taking large quantities of these vitamins and minerals are often overstated, incorrect, or simply misunderstood. This is sometimes due to an honest lack of data, but other times as part of a marketing campaign in order to increase supplement sales.
In a previous blog post I wrote about how high doses of Omega-3 fatty acids, which do have health benefits on their own, actually increase prostate cancer risks instead of reducing them. This was a shock to the medical community as it was commonly believed that Omega-3s played a role in reducing cancer risks. In a post prior to that I covered a lawsuit put forward by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) toward POM Wonderful for the bold claims that their pomegranate extract helped to prevent various diseases including cancer. It was found that the data to support POM’s claims was severely lacking. Now, a new study has been released that shows that Selenium, a mineral which has been claimed to have cancer fighting benefits when taken in large doses, not only has no benefit, but can even be toxic.
This study, which looked at the data from 49 observational studies and six randomized, controlled trials, ultimately found that there is no direct link between increased Selenium intake and reduced cancer risk. While the observational studies showed what appeared to be a slight correlation between the two, the more accurate controlled studies showed that to not be the case. It’s believed that one of the reasons that the observational studies had this discrepancy is that the people who took part in them, who had higher Selenium levels, simply had a better nutritional intake overall – and good overall health is a cancer prevention method.
This very much ties into what I said in my post about Omega-3s. The key to staying healthy is to live healthy. There is nothing we can do to entirely remove the risk of developing cancer, as cancer does not discriminate. However, we can reduce our risks by eating well, maintaining a healthy weight, getting plenty of exercise, and preventing ourselves from being around known cancer causing agents such as alcohol and cigarettes.
There is no single vitamin, mineral, or pill that we can take to stay cancer free. Overall good health, with appropriate amounts of our essential nutrients, provides us with the best chance though.