Dietary cadmium, a toxic metal found in many farm fertilisers, may lead to an increased risk of breast cancer.
“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, associate professor at Karolinska Institute 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, reports the journal Cancer Research.
They estimated the dietary cadmium exposure using a food frequency questionnaire. During the follow-up period, researchers observed 2,112 incidences of breast cancer, according to a Karolinska statement.
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.
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.