The scientists point out that before its entry into the EU, the UK used to buy most of its wheat from Canada and the US. The North American wheat was grown in soil naturally rich in selenium, an essential mineral long known to have vital cancer protection properties. The home grown and European wheat that is widely used now for bread and baked goods contains considerably lower selenium levels.
The University of Surrey team says that the growth in the number of cancer cases in the UK has prompted experts to investigate the link between low selenium intake and cancer mortality.
Dr Margaret Rayman of the Division of Nutrition, Dietectics and Food Science from the School of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Surrey said: "It is in the public interest to finance more research on the apparent relationship between selenium and cancer risk."
Dr Rayman added that studies carried out since the 1960s have shown a consistent trend for populations with low selenium intakes to have higher cancer mortality rates. She said that the strongest evidence for a protective effect of selenium relates to prostate cancer but that significant protection has also been shown from colon, lung cancer, oesophageal and stomach cancers.
Natural Products, 4th October 2006