Selenium May Slow Some Cases of Mesothelioma: Study

Researchers from the University of Hawaii say that taking the micronutrient Selenium may slow down the progression of mesothelioma cancer in some cases, but not all.  

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer, which is only known to be caused by exposure to asbestos and breathing asbestos fibers.  It is associated with a very short life-expectancy after diagnosis, and there are no known effective treatments for mesothelioma.

According to the findings of a study published in last month’s edition of the American Journal of Pathology, researchers indicate that some cell lines of mesothelioma responded favorably to selenium and slowed their cancerous progression. However, they warned that in some cases the progression of the deadly asbestos-exposure related ailment accelerated.

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Researchers tested for mesothelioma cell lines by exposing them to varying concentrations of selenium. In two of those cell lines selenium exposure resulted in a slower mesothelioma progression, while in another two cell lines the process was accelerated.

When researchers looked at the difference between the two cell lines they found that those that how the mesothelioma cells dealt with oxidative stress affected their response to selenium. By introducing N-acetylcysteine to the cell lines where the progression increased with selenium exposure, the researchers were able to make them behave like the other two cell lines that responded favorably.

The findings suggest that dietary compounds that include selenium may be beneficial to patients with mesothelioma.

Exposure to asbestos is the only known cause of mesothelioma. Although the substances has been banned for more than 30 years, new cases of the deadly disease continue to surface given the long latency period between exposure and diagnosis of mesothelioma.

Asbestos was widely used in a variety of manufacturing and construction applications throughout the last century, with use peaking in 1973. According to a 2009 report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of cases of malignant mesothelioma are just now peaking, since there is a long latency period of 20 to 40 years between exposure an diagnosis.

Over the past few decades, mesothelioma litigation has become the longest-running mass tort in U.S. history, with more than 600,000 people having filed a lawsuit against more than 6,000 defendants after being diagnosed with cancer that was allegedly caused by inhaling asbestos fibers.

In addition to cases for individuals directly exposed, in recent years there have been a growing number of second-hand asbestos exposure lawsuits brought on behalf of family members were exposed to fibers carried home on clothing or in the hair of individuals working with the material. Cases have been brought by individuals who were exposed as young children or babies when their parents would hold them after returning home from work with asbestos.

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