High rates of hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection and primary liver cancer (PLC) are present in Qidong county. Epidemiological surveys demonstrated an inverse association between selenium (Se) level and regional cancer incidence, as well as HBV infection. Four-year animal studies showed that dietary supplement of Se reduced the HBV infection by 77.2% and liver precancerous lesion by 75.8% of ducks, caused by exposure to natural environmental etiologic factors. An intervention trial was undertaken among the general population of 130,471. Individuals in five townships were involved for observation of the preventive effect of Se. The 8-yr follow-up data showed reduced PLC incidence by 35.1% in selenized table salt supplemented vs the nonsupplemented population. On withdrawal of Se from the treated group, PLC incidence rate began to increase. However, the inhibitory response to HBV was sustained during the 3-yr cessation of treatment. The clinical study among 226 Hepatitis B Surface Antigen (HBsAg)-positive persons provided either 200 μg of Se in the form of selenized yeast tablet or an identical placebo of yeast tablet daily for 4 yr showed that 7 of 113 subjects were diagnosed as having PLC in the placebo group, whereas no incidence of PLC was found in 113 subjects supplemented with Se. Again on cessation of treatment, PLC developed at a rate comparable to that in the control group, demonstrating that a continuous intake of Se is essential to sustain the chemopreventive effect.
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