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Selenium supplements for alleviating the side effects of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery in cancer patients

Dennert G, Horneber M
Published Online: 
15 June 2011

There is no evidence that selenium supplements reduce side effects of chemotherapy, radiotherapy or the effects of surgery in cancer patients. Selenium is a mineral necessary for human health. Selenium acts against cell damage in the body and might help to alleviate the side effects of therapies in cancer patients, such as nausea, diarrhoea or the lymph retention in limbs. Selenium supplements are frequently used by cancer patients. This systematic review looked at studies providing selenium supplements to cancer patients and found no clear evidence that selenium supplements improve side effects of cancer therapy. No adverse effects were reported in the studies, but evidence of overdosing, all be it unintentional and selenium intoxication has occurred in several selenium users. More research is needed to find out which doses of selenium supplements can be reasonably used by cancer patients and whether selenium supplements can affect the side effects of cancer therapy.

This record should be cited as: 
Dennert G, Horneber M. Selenium for alleviating the side effects of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery in cancer patients. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2006, Issue 3. Art. No.: CD005037. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD005037.pub2
Assessed as up to date: 
17 February 2009