Increased dietary intake of cadmium is associated with an elevated risk of prostate cancer (PCa), according to researchers.

In a population-based prospective cohort study 41,089 Swedish men aged 45-79 years, Bettina Julin, PhD, of the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, and colleagues found that men in the highest tertile of dietary cadmium intake had a 13% increased risk of PCa compared with those in the lowest tertile. The risk for localized, advanced, and fatal PCa was increased by 29%, 5%, and 14%, respectively, the investigators reported online ahead of print in the British Journal of Cancer.

Dr. Julin’s team noted that experimental data suggest that cadmium, which is a toxic metal, is a prostate carcinogen that is widely dispersed in the environment. Farmland has become contaminated with the metal, so food constitutes the main source of exposure in the non-smoking population, they stated. Lung cancer has been linked to occupational exposure to cadmium.

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For the study, men were followed from 1998 through 2009. The mean follow-up period was 10.8 years, during which 3,085 PCa cases were diagnosed (894 localized, 794 advanced, and 326 fatal).

The researchers estimated dietary cadmium exposure using food frequency questionnaires that subjects filled out at baseline in 1998. Data on the cadmium contents of foods were provided mainly by the Swedish national Food Agency. Bread, potatoes, and root vegetables were among the main contributors of dietary cadmium.