Open Access Open Badges Research article

Can selenium levels act as a marker of colorectal cancer risk?

Marcin R Lener1*, Satish Gupta12, Rodney J Scott34, Martin Tootsi5, Maria Kulp6, Mari-Liis Tammesoo5, Anu Viitak6, Anders Metspalu5, Pablo Serrano-Fernández1, Józef Kładny7, Katarzyna Jaworska-Bieniek12, Katarzyna Durda1, Magdalena Muszyńska1, Grzegorz Sukiennicki1, Anna Jakubowska1 and Jan Lubiński1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Genetics and Pathology, International Hereditary Cancer Center, Pomeranian Medical University, Połabska 4, 70-115, Szczecin, Poland

2 Postgraduate School of Molecular Medicine Medical University of Warsaw, Żwirki i Wigury 61, 02-091, Warsaw, Poland

3 Discipline of Medical Genetics, School of Biomedical Sciences, Faculty of Health, University of Newcastle, Newcastle, NSW 2308, Australia

4 The Hunter Medical Research Institute, Newcastle, NSW 2308, Australia

5 The Estonian Genome Center, University of Tartu, 23b Riia Str., Tartu 51010, Estonia

6 Tallinn University of Technology, Department of Analytical Chemistry, Akadeemia tee 1512618, Tallinn, Estonia

7 Department of General and Oncological Surgery, Pomeranian Medical University, Al. Powstańców Wlkp. 72, 70-111, Szczecin, Poland

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BMC Cancer 2013, 13:214  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-13-214

Published: 29 April 2013



Selenium has attracted attention because of its antioxidant properties. Antioxidants protects cells from damage. Certain breakdown products of selenium are believed to prevent tumor growth by enhancing the immune cell activity and suppressing the development of tumor blood vessels. In this observational study, selenium level was measured in a series of patients from Poland and Estonia to determine a correlation between levels of this microelement and colorectal cancer risk.


A total of 169 colorectal cancer patients and 169 healthy controls were enrolled in the study after obtaining their informed consent. Selenium level in the blood serum was measured using Graphite Furnace Atomic Absorption Spectrometry (GFAAS). The statistical analysis was performed by Fisher’s exact test.


The threshold point of selenium level was 55 μg/l and 65 μg/l for Poland and Estonia respectively, for an increase in cancer risk. The lower levels of selenium were associated with greater risk of colorectal cancer.


The result reveals a significant strong association between low selenium level and the colorectal cancer risk in both Estonian and Polish populations.

Selenium; Colorectal; Cancer risk; Dietary supplement