Increased Endometrial Cancer Rates Found in Women With Increased Levels of Cadmium

Key Points

  • Participants were asked to complete a survey of more than 200 questions about risk factors potentially associated with endometrial cancer, and were sent a kit to collect urine and saliva samples to be analyzed for cadmium levels.
  • Researchers found the rate of endometrial cancer incidence increased by 22% in individuals with increased cadmium levels.

Through a 5-year observational study recently published by McElory et al in PLOS One, researchers at the University of Missouri (MU) found that women with increased levels of cadmium—a metal commonly found in foods such as kidney, liver, and shellfish, as well as tobacco—had an increased risk of endometrial cancer. Researchers hope that this observation could lead to new treatments or interventions to prevent endometrial cancer.

 “Cadmium is an estrogen-mimicking chemical, meaning it imitates estrogen and its effects on the body,” said lead author Jane McElroy, PhD, Associate Professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the MU School of Medicine. “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.”

Survey Findings

The research team partnered with cancer registries in Missouri, Arkansas, and Iowa to identify cases of endometrial cancer. The team enrolled 631 women with a history of endometrial cancer in the study and 879 women without a history of the cancer to serve as a control group. The participants were asked to complete a survey of more than 200 questions about risk factors potentially associated with endometrial cancer. Once they completed the questionnaire, participants were sent a kit to collect urine and saliva samples. Through tests conducted at the MU Research Reactor, the samples were analyzed for cadmium levels.

“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,” Dr. McElroy said. “We found the rate of endometrial cancer incidence increased by 22% in individuals with increased cadmium levels.”

While more research is needed to better understand the risks associated with cadmium, researchers say there are steps individuals can take to limit their cadmium-associated cancer risks.

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

The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.


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