Selenium supplementation and lung cancer incidence: An update of the nutritional prevention of cancer trial

Mary E. Reid, Anna J. Duffield-Lillico, Linda Garland, Bruce W. Turnbull, Larry C. Clark, James R. Marshall

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191 Scopus citations


Interest in the chemopreventive effects of the trace element selenium has spanned the past three decades. Of >100 studies that have investigated the effects of selenium in carcinogen-exposed animals, two-thirds have observed a reduction in tumor incidence and/or preneoplastic endpoints (G. F. Combs and S. B. Combs, The Role of Selenium in Nutrition Chapter 10, pp. 413-462. San Diego, CA: Academic Press, 1986, and B. H. Patterson and O. A. Levander, Cancer Epidemiol. Biomark. Prev., 6: 63-69, 1997). The Nutritional Prevention of Cancer Trial, a randomized clinical trial reported by Clark et al. (L. C. Clark et al., JAMA, 276: 1957-1963, 1996), showed as a secondary end point, a statistically significant decrease in lung cancer incidence with selenium supplementation. The adjusted hazard ratio (HR) was 0.56 [95% confidence interval (CI), 0.31-1.01; P = 0.05]. These results were based on active follow-up of 1312 participants. This reanalysis used an extended Nutritional Prevention of Cancer Trial participant follow-up through the end of the blinded clinical trial on February 1, 1996. The additional 3 years added 8 cases to the selenium-treated group and 4 cases to the placebo group, and increased follow-up to 7.9 years. The relative risk of 0.70 (95% CI, 0.40-1.21; P = 0.18) is not statistically significant. Whereas the overall adjusted HR is not significant (HR = 0.74; 95% CI, 0.44-1.24; P = 0.26), and the HR for current and former smokers was not significant, the trend is toward a reduction in risk of incident lung cancer with selenium supplementation. In a subgroup analysis there was a nominally significant HR among subjects with baseline plasma selenium in the lowest tertile (HR = 0.42; 95% CI, 0.18-0.96; P = 0.04). The analysis for the middle and highest tertiles of baseline showed HRs of 0.91 and 1.25. The current reanalysis indicates that selenium supplementation did not significantly decrease lung cancer incidence in the full population, but a significant decrease among individuals with low baseline selenium concentrations was observed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1285-1291
Number of pages7
JournalCancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Oncology


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