BACKGROUND: An inverse association between selenium status and incidence of different neoplasias including gastric cancer has been reported. This pilot study aimed to determine and compare selenium status in two Colombian populations with different gastric cancer risks: a high-risk area in the volcanic region of the Andes Mountains and a low-risk area on the Pacific coast.
METHODS: Eighty nine adult males were recruited in the outpatient clinics of two public hospitals (44 and 45 from high- and low-risk areas, respectively) and provided a blood sample. Seventy one (79.8%) participants underwent upper gastrointestinal endoscopy. Plasma selenium was assayed using a fluorometric method, selenoprotein-P by ELISA, and glutathione peroxidase activity by a spectrophometric method. Histological diagnosis and Helicobacter pylori infection were evaluated in gastric biopsy samples. Unpaired samples t-test and linear regression analyses were used for statistical analyses.
RESULTS: Although none of the subjects in either of the two geographic areas was selenium deficient, the level of plasma selenium was significantly lower in men from the high-risk area compared with those from the low-risk area. Levels of selenoprotein-P and glutathione peroxidase activity were similar between groups after adjustment for confounders. Selenium measurements were not associated with histopathological diagnosis.
CONCLUSIONS: The high incidence of gastric cancer in the Andean region of Colombia is unlikely to be explained by selenium deficiency. We cannot exclude, however, that suboptimal selenium levels may exist in the gastric mucosa of subjects in the high-risk area. Therefore, the benefit of selenium supplementation in gastric cancer prevention cannot be dismissed.