There may be something new to add to your list of ways you can prevent cancer. According to the results of a five-year observational study, recently published in the journal PLOS One, women with increased levels of cadmium had an elevated risk of endometrial cancer. Cadmium is a metal commonly found in foods such as shellfish, kidneys, and liver. It’s also found in tobacco.
Researchers from the University of Missouri hope that their findings could lead to new treatments or interventions to prevent this type of cancer, which is the fourth most common cancer in women. According to the American Cancer Society, more than about 61,000 new cases of uterine-related cancer (where endometrial cancer starts) will be diagnosed in 2017.
The study participants included 631 women with a history of endometrial cancer and 879 women without a history of this cancer. All participants were asked to complete a survey of more than 200 questions about their potential risk factors. Participants also provided urine and saliva samples, which were tested for cadmium levels at the MU Research Reactor.
The researchers found that the rate of endometrial cancer incidence increased by 22 percent in women with increased cadmium levels.
“Cadmium is an estrogen-mimicking chemical, meaning it imitates estrogen and its effects on the body,” says lead author Jane McElroy, PhD, associate professor in the department of Family and Community Medicine at the MU School of Medicine, as reported on ScienceDaily. “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, there are steps you can take to limit your cadmium-associated cancer risks. While we all have cadmium present in our kidneys and liver, making the right lifestyle choices is vital. According to McElroy, smoking has been shown to more than double a person’s cadmium exposure. If you haven’t already, it’s time to quit ASAP—here are the 23 best ways to stop puffing. When it comes to diet, you don’t need to completely eliminate high-cadmium foods like shellfish, kidney, and liver, but you should eat them in moderation. This is particularly important for women who have a a family history of endometrial cancer, diabetes or obesity. (Note that cadmium poisoning is different: It occurs when someone is chronically exposed to cadmium, typically very heavy smokers or workers exposed to cadmium fumes and dusts.)
Make sure you don’t ignore these cancer symptoms—many women do.