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Ubiquitous Cadmium May Boost Breast Cancer

April 25, 2012
Written by: , Filed in: Breast Imaging
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It’s everywhere. Prolonged exposure to it, even at low levels, can make breast cancer more aggressive.

It’s cadmium, a heavy metal found in cosmetics, rechargeable batteries, cigarette smoke, and our general environment. Maggie Louie, PhD, of Dominican University of California presented research about cadmium on Monday at the Experimental Biology 2012 conference in San Diego Her findings indicate that breast cancer cells become more aggressive the longer they receive chronic exposure to small concentrations of the metal.

Said Dr. Louie, associate professor of biochemistry:

Unfortunately, cadmium is all around us. It is in our food, our water, our makeup, and our air. Understanding the role that cadmium plays in the progression of breast cancer is extremely important in order to find better ways to prevent the disease from advancing.

Dr. Louie was quoted in a Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology news release via Newswise.

Other studies have shown that heavy metals, such as cadmium, can act as endocrine disrupters and mimic estrogen, thus interfering with estrogen’s regulation of cell growth.

Dr. Louie’s preliminary data show that prolonged cadmium exposure corresponds with an increased ability of breast cancer cells to migrate and invade through the extracellular matrix that forms the outer barrier of organs and tissues. “Ninety percent of cancer deaths are associated with the cancer spreading to other parts of the body,” Dr. Louie said.

Her study is one of the few to focus on prolonged rather than acute exposure at the cellular level. Its findings are worrisome. Dr. Louie explained:

Many of us are exposed to very low levels of cadmium from the environment on a daily basis, and our research shows that even small concentrations of this metal at prolonged exposures can cause breast cancer cell growth.

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Related seminar: Breast & Women’s Imaging Seminar

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