Friday, September 5, 2008

"Wedded Bliss, Ignorant Bliss" Christopher C. Barr's 2002 Selenium Counterpunch to "Stand Up To Cancer"

You’ve heard about those who are "married to the job"? This is because of such devotion to the job that it seems to take up all their time.

Researchers can be like this. They can also get caught up in the chase more than in capturing the prize.

Something old

President Richard Nixon issued a directive in 1971 announcing ‘War on Cancer’. This declaration of war was issued to make curing cancer the top priority for America. The stated intent was for such a cancer cure to come about by the bicentennial of America 5 years later.

Cancer specialist Dr. Albert Braverman wrote 20 years later that not one, single, incurable cancer after the ‘War on Cancer’ began had become curable.

Annual cancer diagnoses and deaths now exceed those of 1971 some 30 years after the ‘War on Cancer’ was declared.

Older still, in 1949 Drs. Clayton and Baumann wrote in the journal Cancer Research (vol. 9, pp. 575-582) that the trace mineral element selenium reduced cancer incidence by one-third.

Oldest yet is that selenium was first put forth as a possible preventative against cancer in 1912.

Something new

Federal health officials last month announced "the largest prostate cancer prevention trial that's ever been performed" according to Dr. Leslie Ford of the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The NCI is under the National Institutes of Health that is part of the United States government.

This new cancer prevention trial is to be a twelve-year study. The study is to involve more than 30,000 men. Part of the investigation is designed to use selenium.

Something borrowed

On Christmas morning of 1996 a front-page cover story appeared in the Los Angeles Times and other newspapers across the country. A large, university study on cancer demonstrated that selenium prevented cancer and also increased survival time for those who came down with this condition.

The study included the finding of a 63% reduction in prostate cancer among those taking a 200 microgram supplement of organic selenium.

The study was conducted by an associate professor at a major university cancer center. The professor’s name was Dr. Larry Clark.

Something blue

The name of Dr. Larry Clark rang a bell with me that early winter morning when this story broke.

I remembered a Larry Clark from Cornell University that had co-authored an article more than a decade earlier in Nutrition Reviews of November 1985. The article was entitled "Can Selenium Modify Cancer Risk?" That article postulated that selenium usage might be helpful against cancer and included 97 scholarly references.

Yet the article on the 1996 study noted that this Larry Clark was surprised at the positive results of the current university selenium study.

Were these two different men or were each of these the very same Larry Clark?

If these two men were in fact the very same man then why was he "surprised" the postulate that selenium usage might be helpful against cancer was confirmed more than a decade later?

Checking through my sources another scientist turned up who is a pioneer in selenium supplementation. It had been many years since last I had spoken with him.

When asked if he knew this Larry Clark of the current study he responded, "Yes, he’s my best friend."

I hit paydirt.

He then affirmed my suspicion that this Larry Clark was also the same scientist as the Cornell co-author of the previous decade.

So why would he express "surprise" at the results of this then just released study on selenium and cancer?

My source told me that when the news media began to bombard the ASU administration with requests to speak with Dr. Larry Clark, the administrators called Dr. Clark in for a meeting. They told him that if any type of endorsement to selenium supplementation was given he would be fired.

At this time I worked for one of the largest newspapers in the world. It was a multiple winner of the prestigious Pulitzer Prize.

Excitedly, I brought this scandalous story to a senior news editor with more than 25 years experience at the newspaper. He asked only one question.

"What’s the local angle?"

I told him that cancer was the #2 killer and #1 feared disease of local readers. He shrugged his shoulders and walked away.

Now here we are five years later with the announcement of this new and redundant selenium study on prostate cancer. It is not due to be completed before 2013. That is more than 100 years after selenium was first put forth as a preventative against cancer.

Am I blue?

I sure am blue!

I am blue that so much suffering has gone on needlessly and will continue to go on needlessly while selenium is kept in the closet.

I am blue in the face that the story of selenium and cancer is still only the smallest of blips on the radar screen of cancer research. This is in spite of the wealth of positive findings that have been unearthed on the subject over many decades.


Dr. Larry Clark died last year. He died from prostate cancer. Is it ironic that he should die from the condition for which his research had shown such promise? Or is it rather ominous that he should die like this after he downplayed the promise of selenium for prostate cancer in spite of his research and personal belief?

Christopher C. Barr writes Naturally Speaking from Arkansas: The Natural State… naturally! You may write him at P. O. Box 1147, Pocahontas, Arkansas 72455 or by e-mail at

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