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Biological Trace Element Research

, Volume 1, Issue 4, pp 273–297 | Cite as

Magnesium (and trace substance) deficiencies in the pathogenesis of cancer

  • Mildred S. Seelig
Review Article

Abstract

Except for a few experimental models of magnesium (Mg)-deficiency-induced neoplasms, less attention has been paid in the past quarter century in the Western world to this macromineral than to the trace elements; e.g., selenium (Se) and zinc (Zn), and to vitamins, deficiencies of which are each considered probable factors in oncogenesis. Although early epidemiologic studies showed an inverse correlation between the amount of Mg in soil and water and the incidence of (gastric) cancer, and several animal studies supported the premise that Mg has a prophylactic effect against induction of cancer, other studies showed that Mg supplementation increased the growth of established experimental tumors. Thus, enthusiasm for this approach subsided. The early epidemiologic findings have since been confirmed, and there have been studies demonstrating the importance of Mg in maintaining immunocompetence, and others indicating that immunodeficiencies increase susceptibility to the development of cancer. Evidence has now accrued that indicates that Mg deficiency increases susceptibility to chemical oncogens. The abnormal metabolism of tryptophan (yielding a carcinogenic metabolite) that indicates functional or absolute pyridoxine deficiency is an indirect clue to Mg deficiency. Vitamin B6-activated enzymes require Mg as a cofactor. However, the early warnings against the use of Mg as part of an antineoplastic program against established cancer were justified, since rapidly metabolizing cells (such as cancers) are dependent on Mg.

There are similarities between experiences with Mg and with Se and Zn. All three are required for normal metabolism; Se also protects against free radicals in the environment. Mg and Zn have increased established tumor growth, and their depletion has been applied to antineoplastic programs, with risks comparable to those of using antimetabolic agents.

Key Words

Magnesium, deficiencies in cancer pathogenesis zinc, deficiencies in cancer pathogenesis selenium, deficiencies in cancer pathogenesis vitamin, deficiencies in cancer pathogenesis cancer pathogenesis, magnesium and trace substance deficiencies in pathogenesis, of cancer, and magnesium deficiencies immunosurveillance, Mg, Zn, and vitamin B6, effects on membrane damage, by free radicals membrane stability, Mg, Se, Zn, and vitamin E effects on cancer stimulation, Mg and Zn effects on cancer treatment, Mg and Zn depletion in 

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Copyright information

© The Humana Press Inc. 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mildred S. Seelig
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Medicine, Goldwater Memorial HospitalNew York University Medical CenterRoosevelt Island

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