PHILADELPHIA — Dietary cadmium, a toxic metal widely dispersed in the environment and found in many farm fertilizers, may lead to an increased risk of breast cancer, according to a study published in Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.
Cadmium occurs at low concentrations naturally, but scientists are concerned because contamination of farmland mainly due to atmospheric deposition and use of fertilizers leads to higher uptake in plants.
"Because of a high accumulation in agricultural crops, the main sources of dietary cadmium are bread and other cereals, potatoes, root crops and vegetables," said Agneta Åkesson, Ph.D., associate professor at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden. "In general, these foods are also considered healthy."
For the current study, Åkesson and colleagues observed 55,987 women for more than 12 years. They estimated the dietary cadmium exposure using a food frequency questionnaire. During the follow-up period, researchers observed 2,112 incidences of breast cancer including 1,626 estrogen receptor-positive and 290 estrogen receptor-negative cases.
Cadmium consumption was divided into three groups with the highest levels of exposure compared with the lowest. Overall, a higher exposure to cadmium via diet was linked with a 21 percent increase in breast cancer. Among lean and normal weight women, the increased risk was 27 percent.
Both estrogen receptor-positive and negative tumors had the same risk increase at roughly 23 percent. Åkesson said that women who consumed higher amounts of whole grain and vegetables had a lower risk of breast cancer compared to women exposed to dietary cadmium through other foods.
"It's possible that this healthy diet to some extent can counteract the negative effect of cadmium, but our findings need to be confirmed with further studies," said Åkesson. "It is, however, important that the exposure to cadmium from all food is low."
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Founded in 1907, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) is the world's first and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research and its mission to prevent and cure cancer. AACR's membership includes 34,000 laboratory, translational and clinical researchers; population scientists; other health care professionals; and cancer advocates residing in more than 90 countries. The AACR marshals the full spectrum of expertise of the cancer community to accelerate progress in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer through more than 20 conferences and educational workshops, the largest of which is the AACR Annual Meeting with more than 18,000 attendees. In addition, the AACR publishes seven peer-reviewed scientific journals and a magazine for cancer survivors, patients and their caregivers. The AACR funds meritorious research directly as well as in cooperation with numerous organizations. As the Scientific Partner of Stand Up To Cancer, the AACR provides expert peer review and scientific oversight of individual and team science grants in cancer research. The AACR actively communicates with legislators and policymakers about the value of cancer research and of related biomedical science in saving lives from cancer.
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