A report published online on December 20, 2011 in the journal Gut revealed a protective effect for increased levels of selenium and nickel against the development of exocrine pancreatic cancer—the most common pancreatic malignancy.
A team from the Spanish National Cancer Research Center and the University of Barcelona conducted a case-control study involving 118 men and women diagnosed with exocrine pancreatic cancer and 399 cancer-free control subjects residing in Spain. Toenail samples were analyzed for arsenic, cadmium, lead, nickel, selenium and other trace elements.
Having a high level of arsenic was associated with double the adjusted risk of exocrine pancreatic cancer than the risk experienced by those with a low level, and having high levels of cadmium and lead were associated with a 3.5 and six times greater risk. Subjects with a high level of selenium had a 95 percent lower risk of the disease, and those with high levels of nickel had a 73 percent decrease. While protective benefits for selenium have been indicated by numerous studies, occupational exposure to nickel has been associated with an increased risk of some cancers, however, the researchers remark that nickel may be associated with higher amounts of potentially carcinogenic polychlorinated biphenyls in occupational settings, which could account for the elevated cancer risk.
"Aberrant expression patterns of some selenoproteins show that they are relevant in scavenging reactive oxygen species and diminishing oxidative damage," Andre F. S. Amaral and his colleagues write. "Selenium seems also to play a role as an antagonist of arsenic, cadmium and lead, decreasing the oxidative stress caused by exposure to these elements."
They conclude that the findings point to a role of trace elements in the development of cancer of the pancreas and warrant further research.
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