Solna, Sweden—According to a study published in Cancer Research, dietary cadmium, a toxic metal found in many farm fertilizers, may lead to an increased risk of breast cancer.

Cadmium occurs in low concentrations naturally, but the use of fertilizers mixed with the contamination of farmland due to atmospheric deposition leads to higher uptake in plants. Agneta Akesson, Ph.D., associate professor at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, claims that dietary cadmium can be found primarily in bread, cereals, potatoes, vegetables and root crops. Akesson points out that these foods, though possibly poisoned with this toxic metal, are usually considered healthy.

Akesson and colleagues observed 55,987 women for a period of over 12 years. They estimated the amount of dietary cadmium exposure through a food frequency questionnaire. Researchers observed 2,112 incidents of breast cancer during the follow up period. This includes 1,626 estrogen receptor-positive and 290 estrogen receptor-negative cases.

Cadmium consumption was divided into three groups, comparing the highest level of exposure to the lowest. The higher exposure to the metal via diet was linked with a 21% increase in breast cancer. The risk was increased by 27% in women considered a normal weight. Both estrogen receptor-positive and negative tumors held the same risk increase at 23%. Akesson found that women who consumed higher amounts of vegetables and whole grains had a lower risk of breast cancer compared to those exposed to dietary cadmium with other foods. Some new studies show that Zinc could protect the body against the threat of cadmium.

Organic foods are free of such fertilizer contamination.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, May 2012