Selenium Dosages in Cancer Therapy

It all started back in the 1970s at the University of California in San Diego. Dr. Gerhard Schrauzer studied the relationship between selenium and breast cancer in female mice. In one experiment Dr. Schrauzer added 2 ppm of selenium in the form of selenite to the drinking water. After 15 months, 82% of the untreated mice used as controls had developed mammary tumors. However, only 10% of the mice that received selenium supplementation developed tumors.

Over a 70% reduction in breast cancer was realized with trace amounts of selenium added to the diet. For many years Dr. Schrauzer has been saying that if women would take 200-300 mcg of selenium daily, the majority of breast cancers could be eliminated within a short period of time.

In another study with mice, Dr. Schrauzer showed that midlife cessation of selenium supplementation resulted in a subsequent rapid increase in the number of tumors. Therefore, selenium supplementation must be maintained throughout the entire lifespan if you want its protection. “The data suggest that selenium is not only effective in prevention but can also be used as an adjuvant chemotherapeutic agent.” The more selenium available, the lower the levels of cancer.

In this very interesting book the author, Dr. Ross Pelton, talks about Dr. Schrauzer as well as Dr. Robert C. Donaldson, an oncologist at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Saint Louis, Missouri who discovered in most of his patients that normal doses of selenium did not produce much of an increase in the blood levels of selenium. He also found that his cancer patients had very low blood selenium levels, which agreed with the scientific literature linking low levels of selenium with increased rates of cancer. Deciding to study this problem, he enlisted the help of Nutrition 21, a company that produces standardized organically bound high-selenium yeast. Nutrition 21 agreed to supply him with selenium rich yeast for his cancer patients.

In fact, very high oral doses of selenium were required to bring up the blood levels of selenium in his cancer patients. In a letter to Nutrition 21 dated May 11, 1979, he indicated, “We are now able, with nearly 100% regularity, to increase the blood levels by several fold by giving 1,000-2,000 micrograms of selenium daily and then dropping back to a maintenance dose.”

In one case, a dosage level of 2,700 mcg/day for two months followed by six weeks of 5,000 mcg/day was required to bring up the selenium blood levels. However, it must be emphasized that selenium is a trace mineral and the doses Dr. Donaldson was using are potentially toxic. Dosages this high could produce symptoms of selenium toxicity in a normal person.

One important aspect of Dr. Donaldson’s work is the discovery that many cancer patients apparently don’t absorb selenium well so potentially toxic levels of oral selenium had to be administered in order to achieve normal blood selenium levels. When normal blood selenium levels were reached, Dr. Donaldson documented marked improvement in his patients and, in some cases, remission of advanced cancers.

The amount of selenium needed to obtain normal blood levels varied from person to person. Normal healthy people usually were seen to have normal blood selenium levels on normal diets however it seemed that cancer patients had lower selenium levels on similar diets. (As we will see below this could be in great part due to more intense mercury toxicity in cancer patients.) Apparently they could not get enough without supplements. Dr. Donaldson found that he had to supplement the cancer patients with at least 200-600 micrograms of selenium per day, and in some cases 2,000 micrograms of selenium per day were required to obtain normal blood levels of selenium. Some patients will benefit from even higher dosages. Patients themselves can administer high dosages safely for short periods of time as long as they are informed of the subtle signs of overdoing it.

The question must be asked whether selenium is really toxic at these high levels when blood levels are so low. Donaldson noted that occasional patients with relatively low levels of selenium (.223 ppm) experienced dramatic tumor regressions when supplemental selenium raised blood levels to normal. For other patients, however, tumor regression was not evident until the levels reached .40-.50 ppm, while still others required reaching blood levels of .80 ppm.

The higher dosage levels of selenium that appear to be necessary to help cancer patients can be toxic, but that is not of major concern. Possible selenium toxicity is often blown totally out of proportion by the medical industrial complex. Dr. Schrauzer reports that dosages of 2,000-5,000 mcg per day will produce toxicity symptoms only after several months. However, since the early symptoms of selenium toxicity such as nausea, weakness, and discoloration of the fingernails are easily noticed, high doses have not been reported to have caused any fatalities.

“Because oral doses of selenium have to be so large to be therapeutically effective, it is imperative to perform regular assays of blood selenium levels in each individual patient if using 1,000-mcg intramuscular injection of selenium, which is best done every other day during a 21-day period for late-stage cancer patients. This route bypasses the intestines and avoids the problem of varying levels of selenium uptake in different patients. Outpatients take between 300 and 400 mcg of organic selenium orally each day as a nutritional supplement. Close medical supervision combined with regular laboratory assessment of blood selenium levels is necessary to prevent toxicity when selenium is used to treat cancer,” concludes Dr. Pelton.

Using aspirin is considerably more dangerous than using selenium; aspirin kills over 15,000 people a year in the United States alone. An online search reveals only one reported death from selenium. In 2006 an Australian man died after swallowing 10,000 times the daily dose of selenium. The 75-year-old mistakenly purchased sodium selenite powder used primarily as a supplement for livestock and swallowed 10 grams. (In the last chapter we linked to Tung Oil, Dr. Revici’s lipid selenium, which is the best, safest form for the high dosages needed to treat cancer. Second best are yeast based selenium where it is only safe to administer about 2 mg a day. With Tung Oil one can easily start at ten to twenty mg a day.)  

Selenium toxicity is rare in the U.S. The few reported cases have been associated with industrial accidents and a manufacturing error that led to an excessively high dose of selenium in a supplement. The Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences has set a tolerable upper intake level (UL) for selenium at 400 micrograms per day (ug/day) for adults to prevent the risk of developing selenosis.

The Linus Pauling Institute says, “A two-stage model has been proposed to explain the different anticarcinogenic activities of selenium at different doses. At nutritional or physiologic doses (~40-100 mcg/day in adults), selenium maximizes antioxidant selenoenzyme activity, probably enhances immune system function, and may affect carcinogen metabolism. At supranutritional or pharmacologic levels (~200-300 mcg/day in adults), the formation of selenium metabolites, especially methylated forms of selenium, may also exert anti-carcinogenic effects.”

When practicing a full protocol one must remember that all of the agents will act synergistically with the others to lower the need for extremely high dosages. Don’t let the mainstream press boys scare you with toxicity stories that are just projections of the dangerous nature of the drugs the medical press sponsors. An appropriate form of selenium is less toxic than just about every pharmaceutical you can think of including aspirin.

Continuous infusion of selenium as sodium selenite (4,000 microg on the first day, 1,000 microg/dayon the nine following days) had no obvious toxicity.

Taken at normal doses, selenium does not have side effects. An overdose of selenium may cause bad breath, fever, nausea, and liver, kidney and heart problems if those organs are very weak, which is often the case in late-stage cancer.


Recommended Dietary Allowance

Children 1-3

20 mcg/ day

Children 4-8

30 mcg/ day

Children 9-13

40 mcg/ day

Adults and children 14 and up

55 mcg/ day

Pregnant women

60 mcg/ day

Breastfeeding women

70 mcg/ day

One can multiply these dosages by a factor of around ten and still be on the safe side of toxic issues, though for pregnant or breastfeeding women very high dosages should only be applied in dire medical circumstances. When looking at the above chart it is good to remember the Brazil nut and how strong of a medicine one nut can be for children or anybody else. Obviously a few nuts are not going to kill anybody.

Although selenium is an essential trace element, it is toxic if taken in excess though anything and everything taken in excess is toxic. Exceeding the Tolerable Upper Intake Level of 400 micrograms per day can lead to selenosis. This 400 microgram (µg) Tolerable Upper Intake Level is based primarily on a 1986 study of five Chinese patients who exhibited overt signs of selenosis and a follow up study on the same five people in 1992. The 1992 study actually found that the maximum safe dietary Se intake is approximately 800 micrograms per day (or 15 micrograms per kilogram body weight), but suggested 400 micrograms per day for avoiding toxicity and/or creating an imbalance of nutrients in the diet.

Special Note: When using selenium for cancer treatment it is important to understand that overly high dosages are recommended for very short periods of time to avoid toxicity issues if using a non-lipid form of selenium. How much is a high dosage for a particular cancer patient is difficult to determine in advance. If one is doing treatment under a doctor’s care, blood tests can be used to monitor levels. .