The chances of growing liver cancer may be significantly higher for people who have low levels of the nutrient selenium in their blood, suggests a new study published in the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition”.

Liver is one of the most important parts of our body for filtering bloods. As the liver continuously filters blood that circulates through the body, converting nutrients and drugs absorbed from the digestive tract into ready-to-use chemicals. It also performs many other important functions, such as removing toxins and other chemical waste products from the blood and readying them for excretion. Because all the blood in the body must pass through it, the liver is unusually accessible to cancer cells traveling in the bloodstream.

The chances of growing liver cancer may be significantly higher for people who have low levels of the nutrient selenium in their blood, suggests a new study published in the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition”.

Most liver cancer is secondary or metastatic, meaning it started elsewhere in the body. Primary liver cancer, which starts in the liver, accounts for about 2% of cancers in the U.S., but up to half of all cancers in some undeveloped countries. This is mainly due to the prevalence of hepatitis, caused by contagious viruses, that predisposes a person to liver cancer. In the U.S., primary liver cancer strikes twice as many men as women, at an average age of 67.

Liver with Cancer


The selenium is a trace mineral present in soil, animal products, and plant-based foods, including seafood,Brazil nuts, organ meats, milk, and eggs.

The food content of selenium varies greatly, as it depends on how much of the element is in the plants animals consume, as well as how much is in the soil in which plants grow.

As reported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), selenium is essential for human health, with beneficial roles for reproduction, the immune system, and DNA synthesis.

Research has also shown that selenium has antioxidant properties, meaning it can protect against oxidative stress - the process by which uncharged molecules called free radicals damage cells.

While oxidative stress has been associated with cancer development, some studies have suggested that selenium deficiency - resulting in reduced protection against free radical-related cell damage - might be a risk factor for the disease.

Prof.Lutz Schomburg the lead scientist of the Institute of Experimental Endocrinology in Berlin, Germany, and colleagues set out to investigate whether selenium levels might influence the risk of liver cancer.

Low levels of selenium in blood increases the danger of liver cancer more than 10 times

Prof.Schomburg and team analyzed the data of around 477,000 adults who were part of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study.

The research team identified 121 patients with liver cancer, 100 patients with gallbladder and biliary tract cancers, and 40 patients with intrahepatic bile duct cancer. All patients had developed these cancers over a 10-year follow-up.

The blood samples of the cancer patients were assessed for selenium levels and compared with healthy controls.

Liver cancer anatomy


The scientists observed that patients with liver cancer and gallbladder and biliary tract cancers had significantly lower selenium levels than the controls.

Contrast with individuals who had the highest selenium levels, the team found that those with the lowest selenium levels had a five- to ten times greater risk of liver cancer.

"We have been able to show that selenium deficiency is a major risk factor for liver cancer."

Prof.Lutz Schomburg

Yet,low selenium levels were not associated with increased risk of gallbladder and biliary tract cancers and intrahepatic bile duct cancer.

Liver Cirosis Cancer


The American Cancer Society reported, there will be 39,230 new cases of liver cancer and intrahepatic bile duct cancer diagnosed in the United States this year, and more than 21,000 people will die from these cancers.

Prof.Schomburg stresses that their study does not show that selenium supplementation directly  reduces the risk of liver cancer, so no recommendations can be made at present.

"However,it does confirm the importance of a balanced diet, of which selenium forms an integral part," he adds.

Our View

Furthermore various cancer-causing substances are associated with primary liver cancer, including certain herbicides and chemicals such as vinyl chloride and arsenic. Smoking,especially if you abuse alcohol as well, also increases risk. Aflatoxins,cancer-causing substances made by a type of plant mold, have also been implicated. Aflatoxins can contaminate wheat, peanuts, rice, corn, and soybeans.

So we should avoid those foods and drinks or habits. Rather we can eat foods with full of nutrients and selenium.


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