ambitious project, to be sure, and one that would complete the cycle
of Hawkes' two decades of research studying selenium, an essential
trace element thought to play a role in cancer prevention. What
role selenium plays remains controversial.
- a metalloid element chemically similar to sulfur - is found naturally
in soil. It's used in industry to impart red coloring to glass,
to change the electrical properties of silicone in semiconductors
and to increase the durability of rubber tires. Doctors use it to
treat acne, eczema, and dandruff. And it can be toxic to humans,
depending on how much and what kind of selenium is used.
is found in a variety of foods, including red meat, grains, eggs,
liver, garlic, and brewer's yeast. The amount, however, depends
on the type of soil where the foods were harvested, according to
can't easily control your selenium intake through diet alone,"
he said. "The only food reliably high in selenium is the Brazil
nut, but that's because the soil in Venezuela, where most Brazil
nuts are harvested, is high in selenium."
scientists - including Hawkes, who takes 200 micrograms of selenium
daily - believe the element has health benefits. In 1996, the Nutritional
Prevention of Cancer Study Group published a landmark study in the
Journal of the American Medical Association linking high doses of
selenium to a statistically lowered risk of cancer, especially prostate,
colorectal and lung cancers
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