Hampton Professor Conducts Study Linking Cigarette Smoke to Breast CancerHAMPTON, Va.
A new study links cadmium, a metal found in cigarette smoke and shellfish, to breast
Findings from the study, conducted by Hampton University biology professor Dr. Nicholas Kenney and several researchers at the Lombardi Cancer Center at Georgetown University, were published in the July issue of Nature Medicine. According to the study, cadmium mimics the effects of estrogen in the uterus and the mammary gland.
“Here we find for the first time that a heavy metal can mimic the effects of estrogen in stimulating abnormal growth in the breast,” says Kenney, who also holds a joint appointment at the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
Kenney said secondhand smoke and other environmental factors may be acting as pseudo estrogen. According to the NCI, evidence suggests that the longer a woman is exposed to estrogen — either made by the body, taken as a drug or delivered by a patch — the more likely she is to develop breast cancer.
The team of researchers used very low levels of cadmium to conduct their experiments and found that cadmium can modulate the estrogen receptor.
“This is an environmental factor that is not hazardous at low levels, but at high concentrations can induce a prerequisite for cancer,” says Kenney, who has studied breast cancer for 14 years.
Kenney also said cadmium is a metal that does not pass through excretion and stores itself within the body without decay. He also noted obese people may have higher levels within their systems making them twice as susceptible to breast cancer.
The research also found that at low exposure levels, cadmium decreased the time needed to reach sexual maturity, increased the adult body weight and altered the structure of mammary glands in the lab rats they tested.
Kenney and his researchers are also studying the affects of cadmium on the prostate gland.
In 2003, an estimated 211,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer according to NCI statistics. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month.
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