Ecologic Study of Serum Selenium and Upper Gastrointestinal Cancers in Iran

Mehdi Nouraie, Akram Pourshams, Farin Kamangar, Mohammad Mahdi Mir-Nasseri, Masoud Sotoudeh, MohammadHosein Derakhshan, MohammadReza Akbari, Hafez Fakheri, MohammadJavad Zahedi, Katlin Caldwell, Kristin CAbnet, Philip RTaylor, Salford MDawsey, Reza Malekzadeh


Introduction and Aims: Both observational and experimental studies have shown that higher selenium status reduces the risk of upper gastrointestinal cancers in selenium deficient populations. Recent cancer registry data have shown very different rates of esophageal cancer (EC) and gastric cancer (GC) in four provinces of Iran, namely Ardabil, Mazandaran, Golestan, and Kerman. The aim of this study was to have a preliminary assessment of the hypothesis that high rates of EC in Golestan and high rates of GC in Ardabil may be partly attributable to selenium deficiency.

Materials and Methods: We measured serum selenium in 300 healthy adults from Ardabil (n=100), Mazandaran (n=50), Golestan (n=100), and Kerman (n=50), using inductively coupled plasma, with dynamic reaction cell, mass spectrometry (ICP-DRC-MS) at the US Centers for Disease Control (Atlanta, Georgia).

Results: The median serum selenium concentrations were very different in the four provinces. The medians (IQR) for selenium in Ardabil, Mazandaran, Golestan, and Kerman were 82 (75-94), 123 (111-132), 155 (141-173), and 119 (110 -128) μg/L, respectively (p‹0.001). The results of linear regression showed that the province variable, by itself, explained 76% of the variance in log selenium (r2=0.76). The proportion of the populations with a serum selenium more than 90 μg/L (the concentration at which serum selenoproteins are saturated) was 100% in Golestan, Kerman, and Mazandaran but only 29% in Ardabil.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that selenium deficiency is not a major contributor to the high incidence of EC seen in northeastern Iran, but it may play a role in the high incidence of GC in Ardabil province.


Serum selenium; Esophageal cancer; Gastric cancer.

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