Selenium and glutathione peroxidase levels in patients with epidermoid carcinoma of the oral cavity and oropharynx

W. Jarrard Goodwin, Helen W. Lane, Kathleen Bradford, Milton V. Marshall, A. Clark Griffin, Helmuth Geopfert, Richard H. Jesse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Selenium ingestion may inhibit carcinogenesis. Epidemiologic studies have shown that age-adjusted death rates for cancer at most head and neck sites are lower in states where the soil and forage crops contain higher levels of selenium. The mode of action is incompletely understood, but may be mediated through an increase in the activity of the selenium dependent, antioxidant enzyme glutathione peroxidase (GSH-Px). The authors studied blood selenium levels and tissue GSH-Ps activities in 50 patients with untreated cancer of the oral cavity and oropharynx. Mean erythrocyte selenium and glutathione peroxidase were significantly depressed when compared to age-matched controls. Mean plasma selenium, on the other hand, was significantly elevated in the cancer patient group. Data from subsets within the cancer patient group were also discussed. GSH-Ps activity did not differ in tumor and adjacent normal tissue. The concept of chemoprevention of carcinogenesis with inhibitory chemical compounds is particularly apropos to head and neck cancer control. Further work is indicated to determine if ingestion of supplemental selenium corrects the abnormalities identified here, and what affect, if any, this would have on the development and behavior of squamous cell cancers in the upper aerodigestive tract.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)110-115
Number of pages6
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1983

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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