For the second time this spring, researchers are finding that the heavy metal cadmium promotes breast cancer. Generally considered a contaminant in cheap, imported kid's jewelry and toys, cadmium can also be found in the food supply, likely the result of chemical fertilizers, and also a contaminant in makeup.
The newest study looking at cadmium's impact on breast cancer found that chronic, low-level exposure to cadmium fueled breast cancer cells, making them more aggressive.
Once cadmium enters the body, it can act as a hormone-disrupting chemical and as a synthetic estrogen, which increases the risk of breast cancer.
What is a "Hormone Disruptor" Anyway?
In the latest research, breast cancer cells exposed to cadmium expressed increased levels of a protein that helps cancer spread more easily throughout the body. The latest study results were unveiled at the annual meeting of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.
In another study released several weeks ago in the journal Cancer Research, scientists found that women with higher dietary exposures to cadmium faced a 21 percent higher risk of developing breast cancer. Although vegetables and whole grains can contain cadmium, the study found that eating these types of foods actually lowered breast cancer risk. (So eat your veggies!)
To reduce your risk of cadmium exposure, eat organic when you can, since phosphate rock, a component of most synthetic fertilizers, is more likely to be contaminated with naturally occurring cadmium.
As for safer makeup formulations, search Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Cosmetics Database to find safer products. In general, using fewer products can also greatly cut back on exposure to harmful heavy metals and chemicals found in cosmetics.