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Selenium in human neurodegenerative diseases: friend or foe?

Marco Vinceti, Tommaso Filippini, Carlotta Malagoli 

Oral presentation at 2017 AISETOV Annual Meeting. Trace elements in human and animal health: focus on neurological disease.

Reggio Emilia (Italy), October 20, 2017 

Selenium is a metalloid of considerable interest for human health, from both a toxicological and a nutritional perspective. However, the exact safe range of intake of this element as well as its health effects, including those on the central nervous system, are still unclear despite the large number of studies devoted to these issues in the last years.

Several laboratory studies have suggested a beneficial role of selenium in the prevention of the pathological processes underlying the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, possibly due to the antioxidant activity of selenoproteins. However, the relevance of these findings to the human is unclear. In addition, laboratory studies have also highlighted the neurotoxicity of several selenium species, probably due to their pro-oxidants effects, in sharp contrast with the well known antioxidant properties of selenoproteins.

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Dual role of selenium in health and disease

Marco Vinceti, Tommaso Filippini, Lauren A Wise

Oral presentation at 1 16th International Symposium on Trace Elements in Man and Animals (TEMA-16), ISTERH 2017 and NTES 2017 meeting

Saint-Petersburg, Russia at 26-29 June, 2017.

The relation between an adequate selenium intake and human health has received a large interest in the most recent years, with reference to the etiology and prevention of chronic disease such as cancer and cardiovascular disease as well as other clinical endpoints. However, the role of this element in the etiopathogenesis of human diseases is still far from being entirely elucidated, and it appears to have a Janus-faced nature. In fact, this element was suggested to decrease cancer risk following the results of several observational studies and a randomized trial, but the most recent trials have shown no activity and even adverse effects of selenium administration on cancer risk. Selenium has also been claimed to exert beneficial effect on risk of diabetes and more generally metabolic diseases, but again the recent randomized trials have shown an opposite effect, i.e. an increased risk of diabetes following selenium supplementation. Cardiovascular risk has not been decreased by selenium supplementation, which exerted instead a beneficial effect on the incidence of a severe cardiomyopathy named ‘Keshan disease’. Keshan disease has been described in low-selenium areas of China, and it mainly affects children and women of childbearing age. Recent epidemiologic studies also suggested a role of selenium in the etiology of neurological disease, with some indications of an adverse effect induced by inorganic selenium.

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Comparison of questionnaire exposure data to land cover map from geographical information system to assess passive exposure to pesticides: a methodological study.

Filippini Tommaso, Malagoli Carlotta, Fiore Mariella, Violi Federica, Costanzini Sofia, Ledda Caterina, Mauceri Cristina, Dimartino Angela, Mandrioli Jessica, Fini Nicola, Patti Francesco, Teggi Sergio, Ferrante Margherita, Vinceti Marco

Oral Presentation at Giornate degli Specializzandi di Igiene - 4th Edition

Bologna, Italy, 25-26 May, 2017.


Exposure assessment based on questionnaires is frequently implemented in case-control studies, but possible information and recall bias could lead to misclassification of exposure.

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Il rischio di leucemia infantile è maggiore nelle aree urbane: studio caso-controllo di popolazione con metodologia GIS

Increased incidence of childhood leukemia in urban areas: a population-based case-control study

Carlotta Malagoli, Marcella Malavolti, Sofia Costanzini, Sara Fabbi, Sergio Teggi, Giovanni Palazzi, Elisa Arcolin,  Marco Vinceti

Oral Presentation at 48° Congresso Nazionale SItI, 2015 October 14-17, Milano

Objective: We carried out a population-based case-control study to assess the possibility of an excess risk of childhood leukemia in urban areas, independently from vehicular traffic pollution.

Methods: Study subjects were the 111 cases of childhood leukemia diagnosed from 1998 to 2011 among residents of two provinces of the northern Italy Emilia-Romagna region, and 444 controls matched by age and sex. Through mapping of the region carried out by remote sensing we examined the percentage of urban or rural area in the 100-meter circular buffer around each child's house. We also modeled annual average exposure to benzene and PM10 from vehicular traffic at each residence.

Results: In a multivariate model adjusting for benzene and PM10, the odds ratio of leukemia associated with residence in highly urbanized area and residential area ( ≥95% land use of this type near home) was 1.4 (95% confidence intervals 0.8-2.4) and 1.3 (0.8-2.2), respectively. An increased risk was also found in association with the proximity to 'dumps, scrap yards and building sites'. No association emerged with residence in rural areas or nearby industrial plants. 

Conclusions: These results indicate that children living in urban areas experience an excess leukemia risk, independently from exposure to pollutants from vehicular traffic.