(NaturalNews) Liver cancers are on the rise in developing countries. Now, more than ever, prevention measures are becoming crucial in the battle against liver cancer.
Due to late-stage diagnoses and limited treatment options, mortality numbers are very high, and liver cancer is the second most common cause of cancer deaths worldwide. In 2012, the disease claimed the lives of nearly 746,000 people globally. This is just over 9 percent of all cancer-related deaths that year.
However, there is hope, and it is not coming from the pharmaceutical industry. A new study, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that increased blood selenium levels and selenoprotein P, the protein that transports selenium from the liver to other parts of the body, were associated with a lower risk of liver cancer incidence. The protective effect of selenium on the liver was even seen when all other liver cancer risks were taken into account.
Selenium-rich foods slash liver cancer risk
The study is a collaboration between researchers from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI), Charite Medical School Berlin, and collaborators in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC).
As reported by the IARC, selenium is an essential trace mineral that plays a crucial role in the functioning of the immune system, and in controlling oxidative processes associated with cancer development.
According to lead researcher, Dr. David Hughes, of the Department of Physiology and Centre for Systems Medicine of the RCSI in Dublin, Ireland, in addition to eliminating alcohol, maintaining a healthy body weight and stopping smoking, increasing intake of selenium-rich foods may also play a significant role in the prevention of liver cancer.
Previous research from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, already made the link between selenium levels, the immune system and the development of cancer. They found that selenium inhibits the over-stimulation of the immune system. Such over-stimulation may cause the immune system to collapse, clearing the path for cancer to proliferate and spread throughout the body.
Dr. Hughes notes that their findings, although very promising, are based on one single study, with a modest number of liver cancer patients. Thus, before making any health claims, further studies are required to confirm the results.
Are you getting enough selenium?
Selenium can be found in shellfish, salmon, Brazil nuts, meat, eggs, grains, broccoli and onions, among many other natural whole foods.
However, the IARC notes that selenium levels in these foods depend on the soil where the products were grown, or where the animals grazed. Lower levels of selenium in the ground were associated with lower concentrations in the blood.
Compared to North America, selenium levels in the soil tend to be lower in many European countries, making them more vulnerable to the development of cancer. Dr. Hughes and his team believe that increasing selenium intake, where selenium levels are sub-optimal, may reduce the development of various types of cancer, including those of the liver.