Study: Excessive Cadmium Linked to Higher Risk of Endometrial Cancer

Women who have excessive cadmium in their bodies may be at increased risk for developing endometrial cancer, researchers from the University of Missouri reported in a recent study.

Accounting for 92% of cancers of the uterus, endometrial cancer, or uterine cancer, is the most common type of reproductive cancer in women in the United States. The disease is caused by cells in the endometrium growing out of control.

Cadmium is a “highly persistent” toxic metal which mimics estrogen in the body. According to lead author Jane McElroy, an associate professor in the University of Missouri Medical School’s Department of Family and Community Medicine, and a team of researchers, cadmium builds up in the body over time. It has been linked to “a variety of adverse health effects,” including kidney damage, calcium imbalance, and an increased risk of pancreatic, breast, and endometrial cancer.

Apart from exposure on the job, excess cadmium usually enters the body through 1 of 2 ways: by eating foods that contain the metal, and by smoking tobacco. Smoking tobacco is cadmium’s second port of entry to the body due to the fact that tobacco plants absorb it from the soil. In urine tests, heavy smokers were found to contain twice as much cadmium as non-smokers.’

Related: High Levels of Heavy Metals Found in Popular Chocolate Brands

Cadmium & Cancers

It’s logical to assume cadmium fuels hormone-dependent cancers because the toxic metal has similar effects to that of the female hormone, estrogen.

McElroy explained:

“Endometrial cancer has been associated with estrogen exposure. Because cadmium mimics estrogen, it may lead to an increased growth of the endometrium, contributing to an increased risk of endometrial cancer.”

However, it was the lack of information about the link that led researchers to dig deeper.

Additionally, past studies have suggested that even low levels of cadmium may significantly shorten the protective caps of DNA on the ends of chromosomes, called telomeres. [2]

Telomeres are associated with aging, and shortened telomeres may increase the risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, various age-related conditions, and cancer.

Studying the Link

Researchers gathered data from the cancer registries in Arkansas, Iowa, and Missouri to identify cases of endometrial cancer. Participants included 631 women with a history of endometrial cancer, and 879 women with no history of the disease who served as a control group. [3]

The women completed a 200-question survey about risk factors potentially associated with endometrial cancer. Once the questionnaires were completed, the participants were asked to collect their own urine and saliva samples for the researchers, so they could analyze them for cadmium.

McElroy said:

“When comparing the cadmium levels of the individuals with endometrial cancer to the control group, we found a statistically significant increased risk of the cancer associated with a woman’s cadmium levels. We found the rate of endometrial cancer incidence increased by 22% in individuals with increased cadmium levels.”

More research is necessary to determine how strong the link is between excess cadmium and endometrial cancer, but based on the limited information available, there are some things you can do to limit your cadmium exposure.

McElroy explained:

“We all have cadmium present in our kidneys and livers, but smoking has been shown to more than double a person’s cadmium exposure.

Also, we recommend being attentive to your diet, as certain foods such as shellfish, kidney and liver can contain high levels of cadmium. You don’t necessarily need to cut these from your diet, but eat them in moderation. This is especially true if women have a predisposition to endometrial cancer, such as a family history, diabetes or obesity.”

Moreover, studies have shown that quercetin, an antioxidant compound found in fruits and vegetables like onions and apples, may protect the body against cadmium exposure, while cilantro and chlorella can help the body detox from the substance.


[1] Medical News Today

[2] Prevention

[3] Science Daily

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Breastfeeding: A Natural Way to Prevent Endometrial Cancer

Endometrial cancer, otherwise known as uterine cancer, is the fourth most common cancer in women in high-income countries, including the United States, Canada, and Australia. There’s no shortage of things you shouldn’t do if you want to avoid cancer, such as using tobacco or drinking alcohol. As some research points out, another thing women can do to lower their risk of endometrial cancer is to breastfeed their babies.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that women exclusively breastfeed for the first 6 months of their child’s life and then continue to do so after introducing solid food to their baby. The United Nations also notes how ‘breastfeeding is directly linked to reducing the death toll of children under five,’ encouraging women around the world to breastfeed.

Susan Jordan of the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute in Brisbane, Australia, told Reuters:

“Cancer of the uterus is becoming more common and we need to try to prevent it. The more women know about the things they can do to reduce their risks of future cancer diagnosis, the better.” [1]

Jordan and her colleagues teamed up to investigate possible correlations between breastfeeding and endometrial cancer. They analyzed data from 17 studies participating in the Epidemiology of Endometrial Cancer Consortium. Ten of the studies were from the U.S., and the others were from Canada, Europe, China, and Australia. Data were available from over 26,000 mothers, including 9,000 with endometrial cancer. The team searched for whether the women breastfed and, if so, for how long. [1]

The researchers found that breastfeeding for any period of time lowered the risk of endometrial cancer and that mothers who breastfed for the recommended six months decreased their risk even further. Breastfeeding beyond nine months appeared to offer no additional benefit. However, women who breastfed their children for any length of time lowered their risk of endometrial cancer by 11% compared to those who had children but didn’t nurse them at all.

Said Jordan:

“Although this piece of evidence by itself may not convince women to breast-feed, it contributes to the overall picture of health gains that can come from breast-feeding.” [1]

Jordan explained:

“Breast-feeding has consistently been found to be associated with reduced risk of breast cancer. This provides evidence of another long-term health benefit for women who breast-feed for more than six months.” [2]

The protective effects of breastfeeding remained, even after the researchers accounted for age, race, education, oral contraceptive use, menopausal status, years since last pregnancy, and body mass index.

Source: The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

In women born after 1950, breastfeeding reduced the risk of endometrial cancer by 28%, but the risk reduction was negligible among women born before then, possibly reflecting differences in breastfeeding practices. For example, in the U.S. in the 1950s and 1960s, breastfeeding rates were considerably lower than in recent decades. [2]

The study does not prove cause and effect, the researchers wrote. But it would make sense that breastfeeding would lower the risk of endometrial cancer, as this type of the disease is fueled by estrogen. Breastfeeding suppresses the hormone.

Jordan said:

“The message is not only relevant for women making decisions about breast-feeding but also for society to understand the benefits so we can support women to breast-feed for reasonably long periods of time.

However, it’s not always possible for women to breast-feed, so it should also be noted that just because a woman chooses not to or can’t breast-feed, it doesn’t mean she’ll go on to develop cancer.” [2]

Jordan and her colleagues have also teamed up with international collaborators to study the effects of breastfeeding on ovarian cancer risk. In addition, the scientists are investigating other factors that may influence endometrial cancer risks, including specific medications. [2]

Breastfeeding has also been linked to numerous other health benefits, including prevention of heart disease.


[1] Reuters/Fox News

[2] The Washington Post

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

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