Monday, October 02, 2006
A report written up in the Medical Journal of Australia details the death of a 75 year old male who had a prostate cancer scare. An initial report showed elevated antigens for prostate cancer. Before further test could be completed to verify or exclude the presence of prostate cancer, the man used the internet to see what he could take.
The "natural" supplement he chose to help him with his (as yet unconfirmed) cancer was selenium. A google search for selenium and "prostate cancer" done while writing this blog found 454,000 matches. With that many hits it's easy to understand how he could have determined that selenium can assist with prostate cancer.
Our patient then purchased selenium supplements from 2 different pharmacies. (In Australia, most supplements are sold by the same people licensed to dispense prescription only medications) The National Institutes of Health's tolerable upper intake of selenium is 400 micrograms. Luckily, many supplements are very low in the active element, with glucose being used as a filler. The unlucky man in this case purchased sodium selenite, which is much higher purity at 96%.
After ingesting 10 grams, some 250,000 times greater than the tolerable limit suggested, the man became very ill. He took the selenium at 7:00 am, was in hospital by 10:30 am and despite the best efforts of the medical staff, was deceased by 1:00 pm.
There is growing evidence of a correlation between low selenium levels and prostate cancers. However, there still needs to be further research to confirm the nature of the link and then, if proven, determine what level of selenium is optimal. There also needs to be research to work out how the selenium works and what side effects, if any, may occur. This research is going on in places such as the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo NY and many universities.
It is also important to understand that a substance that may reduce the incidence of cancer will not automatically cure a cancer if taken in large quanitities. Rather than help, this case shows that large amounts of supplements can be deadly. This case shows clearly that natural does not mean safe and that more is not always better.
In all cases where your health is concerned, see your medically trained doctor. Don't try to self-medicate and don't fall for the dangerous belief that natural means effective or even safe. If you are unsure, get a second opinion from another medically trained doctor.
"There is only one truth. How we interpret that truth is called belief."
"The existence of belief does not indicate the presence of truth."