Friend or foe? The current epidemiologic evidence on selenium and human cancer risk

Marco Vinceti, Catherine M. Crespi, Carlotta Malagoli, Cinzia Del Giovane, Vittorio Krogh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Scientific opinion on the relationship between selenium and the risk of cancer has undergone radical change over the years, with selenium first viewed as a possible carcinogen in the 1940s then as a possible cancer preventive agent in the 1960s-2000s. More recently, randomized controlled trials have found no effect on cancer risk but suggest possible low-dose dermatologic and endocrine toxicity, and animal studies indicate both carcinogenic and cancer-preventive effects. A growing body of evidence from human and laboratory studies indicates dramatically different biological effects of the various inorganic and organic chemical forms of selenium, which may explain apparent inconsistencies across studies. These chemical form-specific effects also have important implications for exposure and health risk assessment. Overall, available epidemiologic evidence suggests no cancer preventive effect of increased selenium intake in healthy individuals and possible increased risk of other diseases and disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)305-341
Number of pages37
JournalJournal of Environmental Science and Health - Part C Environmental Carcinogenesis and Ecotoxicology Reviews
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2013


  • Cancer
  • Epidemiologic studies
  • Prevention
  • Risk assessment
  • Selenium

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Cancer Research


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