Breast Cancer Linked to Cadmium in Fertilizer

The heavy metal, cadmium, which is found in fertilizer, has been linked to breast cancer, according to a new study from Sweden that appears in the March 15th issue of Cancer Research.

The results of the study reveal that post-menopausal women who have a fairly high daily dietary intake of cadmium also have a 21% increased risk for developing breast cancer, said MSNBC. The main source for cadmium in women’s diets, according to the study, were foods broadly considered healthy, such as whole grains and vegetables, which accounted for 40% of the cadmium ingested.

We have long written that the federal government is concerned about toxic metals. And, as regulations regarding toxic metals have increased, cadmium has shown up in a wide variety of children’s products, specifically jewelry. On the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) priority list of 275 most hazardous substances in the environment, cadmium ranks No. 7.

It is believed, said MSNBC, that cadmium can lead to the same adverse health effects as estrogen, a female hormone. Estrogen has long been linked to the development of some breast cancers.

Although whole grains and vegetables are known to protect against cancer, the association is not a cause-and-effect link and people should not avoid these foods, said study researcher Agneta Åkesson, associate professor at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, wrote MSNBC. The team called for more research saying, “It has been known for some time that cadmium is toxic and, in certain forms, carcinogenic,” according to study researcher Bettina Julin, of the Karolinska Institute of Environmental Medicine, wrote MSNBC.

“Though no single observational study can be considered conclusive, this very large, prospective study of [cadmium] exposure and post-menopausal breast cancer makes an important contribution to what is a fairly sparse literature considering this very important topic,” said Michael Bloom, a professor at the School of Public Health at the University of Albany, according to MSNBC. Bloom was not involved in the study.

Researchers collected data from more than 55,000 women in Sweden for 12 years; the women logged everything they ate. The team estimated the cadmium the women consumed based on Sweden’s data on the amount of cadmium in foods, said MSNBC. The participants were divided into three equal groups based on intake.

During the study period 2,112 breast cancer cases occurred with 677 in the lowest cadmium intake group and 744 in the group with the highest cadmium intake, said MSNBC. Age, which is known to affect breast cancer risks, was taken into account. The highest risks were seen in women with high cadmium intake, but who consumed diets low in whole grains and vegetables.

Potatoes and other root vegetables, such as carrots, and cereal grains can accumulate cadmium from fertilizer as well as environmental deposits. Shellfish, organ meats, and sunflower seeds are also known to accumulate high levels of the toxic metal, MSNBC pointed out.

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