Selenium & Iodine: Two Key Minerals That Could Prevent Cancer

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Natural Cancer Prevention TipsCancer is the most feared disease in the world. In the U.S., more than 500,000 people lose their battle with cancer each year. Approximately 2.75 million people are diagnosed with the disease and even more are affected by each case.

The diagnosed can only hope for a cure. However, fortunately, there are ways you can help lower your risk of cancer—and that just may start with selenium and iodine.

One of the Founding Fathers of the U.S., Benjamin Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” That statement is profoundly relevant to cancer. There may not be a “magic potion,” but there are plenty of natural cancer prevention methods.

Lowering your risk of cancer begins with reducing the potential lifestyle and environmental factors that put your body at risk of the disease. The list includes:

  • Quitting smoking
  • Avoiding or limiting alcohol intake
  • Eliminating processed foods from your diet and reducing meat consumption
  • Eating more whole grains, legumes, fish, and vegetables
  • Choosing organic produce to avoid chemical exposure from pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides
  • When eating meat products, choose organic and grass-fed options to avoid antibiotics and growth hormone exposure

Super Minerals for Cancer Prevention: Iodine and Selenium

How else can you avoid cancer? It is best to feed your body what it requires most—nutrients. Nutrient deficiencies and malabsorption are very common precursors to degenerative diseases such as cancer. In fact, there is evidence that particular minerals can actually help to prevent cancer.

These minerals are selenium and iodine. While adequate amounts of these minerals may reduce your cancer risk, deficiencies in both minerals are associated with an increased risk of cancer.

More specifically, University of Arizona researchers found that a selenium treatment may prevent and treat skin cancer. The 1996 study observed 1,312 patients with an average age of 63. Patients were given 200 micrograms (mcg) of selenium or a placebo. Cancer risk was lower in 42% of the selenium patients, and the mineral also reduced the incidence of death by 50%. The selenium treatment reduced the participants’ risk of prostate cancer, colorectal cancer, and lung cancer, along with the overall risk of cancer.

Iodine is associated with the prevention and treatment of breast cancer in particular. Royal Jubilee Hospital researchers from Victoria, B.C., Canada have hypothesized that the low breast cancer incidence in Japan is linked with a diet high in sea vegetables, which contain rich sources of iodine and selenium.

Research published in the International Journal of Medical Sciences from 2008 also suggests iodine could help treat breast cancer by inhibiting the estrogen pathway. Iodine and iodide treatments were found to influence gene expression with the up-regulation of 29 genes and down-regulation of 14 genes during a microarray analysis. The iodine and iodide treatments increased the genes during estrogen metabolism.

What Foods Contain Iodine and Selenium?

Besides supplementing with these minerals, there are also important food sources you can add to your diet to get your daily recommended amounts of iodine and selenium.

Good food sources of selenium include:

  • Tuna
  • Shrimp
  • Salmon
  • Asparagus
  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Brazil nuts
  • Whole grains
  • Flaxseeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Sesame seeds

Organic eggs are a good source of selenium and iodine. You can also obtain dietary iodine from strawberries and sea vegetables, such as kelp, kombu, dulse, or wakame.

Must Read : This Marine Animal Could Help Fight Cancer

Other Important Nutrients for Cancer Prevention

Selenium is considered an antioxidant, which can help protect the body against cancer. Vitamin A, beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, and zinc are other antioxidants known to reduce the risk of cancer development. Vitamin D, glutathione, and the amino acid methionine are also known to aid in the prevention of cancer.

Finally, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) also contains antioxidant properties and can decrease your cancer risk.

Sources for Today’s Article:
Stoddard, F.R., et al., “Iodine Alters Gene Expression in the MCF7 Breast Cancer Cell Line: Evidence for an Anti-Estrogen Effect of Iodine,” International Journal of Medical Sciences 2008; 5(4): 189–196, doi: 10.7150/ijms.5.189.
Clark, L.C., et al., “Effects of selenium supplementation for cancer prevention in patients with carcinoma of the skin. A randomized controlled trial. Nutritional Prevention of Cancer Study Group,” JAMA December 25, 1996; 276(24): 1957–1963.
Cann, S.A., et al., “Hypothesis: iodine, selenium and the development of breast cancer,” Cancer Causes Control February 2000; 11(2): 121–127.
Murray, M., et al, The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine (New York: Atria Paperback, 2012), 95–108.
Black, A., “The mineral selenium proves itself as powerful anti-cancer medicine,” Natural News web site, January 4, 2006;, last accessed December 17, 2014.