Consuming the toxic metal cadmium in the foods you eat may raise your risk for breast cancer, a new Swedish study suggests.
Cadmium, which is found in many farm fertilizers, can make its way into soil and water, the researchers explained. Some of the main sources of cadmium in the diet are bread and other cereals, potatoes, root crops and vegetables. Once it enters the body, cadmium may mimic the effects of the female hormone estrogen, which can fuel the growth of certain breast cancers.
"Modern life has become increasingly dangerous for our breast health," said Dr. Marisa Weiss, director of breast radiation oncology and breast health outreach at Lankenau Medical Center in Wynnewood, Pa. "Now, there's cadmium hanging onto our carrots and whole grains, the very vegetables that are supposed to be good for us," she noted.
"To help our patients reduce their exposure to environmental chemicals (like cadmium), which might increase their risk for breast cancer, we have to partner with our farmers to make sure our foods are grown in healthy soil without chemically loaded fertilizers," said Weiss, who is also president and founder of Breastcancer.org. "Sticking to real, whole (unprocessed) foods remains a healthy strategy until we can be more sure of what's inside the package."
In the Swedish study, the researchers followed close to 56,000 women for more than 12 years. Women filled out food frequency questionnaires, which the researchers used to estimate how much cadmium they consumed in their diets. There were 2,112 breast cancer diagnoses during the follow-up period, including 1,626 estrogen receptor-positive and 290 estrogen receptor-negative cancers.