A naturally occurring heavy metal, cadmium, has made headlines over the past few years after becoming the go-to substitute for lead in cheaply made jewelry and trinkets. The switch immediately raised a red flag for consumer watch groups as exposure to cadmium has been linked to kidney damage, weakened bones, respiratory disorders and cancer.  


But until now, little discussion had been raised about the cadmium that many of us are exposed to every day as part of a healthy diet. All that has changed with the release of a new study linking dietary cadmium to breast cancer.


A new study, published by the American Association for Cancer Research and released today, found that women whose diets contain higher levels of cadmium are at greater risk of developing breast cancer than those who ingest less of the heavy metal in their food. Of the 55,987 post-menopausal women evaluated, the one-third with the highest cadmium intakes were 21 percent more likely to develop breast cancer than the one-third with the lowest intakes.


While cadmium is a naturally occurring metal, larger amounts than normal have made it into our food supply via fertilizers and sewage sludge. Potatoes, whole grains, leafy vegetables and shellfish are key dietary sources of cadmium.  


Potatoes? Leafy greens? Really? You know something is really wrong with the environment when the vegetables that we thought were good for us can be seen as a health hazard.


So how can you avoid or limit the amount of cadmium in your diet? Common sense says that healthy foods like whole grains, seafood and veggies still offer more in the way of health benefits than can be counteracted with the increase in cadmium. But if these foods are common in your daily meals, it makes sense to make the switch to organic to minimize your exposure.


Also on MNN:

New study links breast cancer with dietary cadmium
Can healthy foods like whole grains, potatoes and green leafy vegetables really increase your breast cancer risk?