Swedish researchers indicate that exposure to cadmium in fertilizers may increase a women’s risk of developing breast cancer.
A study published in the March 15 issue of Cancer Research looked at women who consume dietary cadmium through foods grown in fertilizer with high levels of cadmium. Researchers found a much higher risk of breast cancer among women who consumed dietary cadmium than among those who did not.
Researchers looked at data on the eating habits of nearly 56,000 Swedish women over an average of 12 years. They found that there was a 20% increased risk of breast cancer associated with those with high-cadmium intake.
While the researchers accounted for other factors that may reduce or increase the risk of cancer, they expressed concern that cadmium is found in foods, like whole grains, that are usually considered breast cancer risk reducers. Whole grains and vegetables were found to contain the most cadmium of any food group.
The beneficial effects of those types of foods may override any risks from cadmium, however, as the women in the study who ate the most whole-grain foods and vegetables were less likely to develop breast cancer than women who ate other kinds of food that were high in cadmium content.
Cadmium is a heavy metal that can be a carcinogen in some forms. It is used in batteries, electroplating and used in nuclear reactors to control the nuclear fission process.
The researchers noted that their results do not show a causal link between cadmium and breast cancer, but pointed out that it has features of an estrogen mimetic that could cause estrogen-dependent malignancies, like breast cancer.