Some studies have shown that cadmium (Cd) is associated with breast cancer risk. One hypothesis is that Cd has estrogen-like properties. This case-control study investigated the association between breast cancer risk and blood Cd (BCd) levels.


All breast cancers in the Malmö Diet and Cancer cohort were identified through linkage to the Swedish Cancer Registry, baseline (1991–1996) through 2014. Two controls per case were selected from the same cohort. BCd was analyzed at baseline. Associations were analyzed using logistic regression.


Mean BCd was 0.51 μg/L among 1,274 cases and 0.46 among 2,572 controls. There was an overall increased risk of breast cancer [OR, 1.18; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.05–1.36] per μg/L of BCd. An increased risk was, however, only found at high BCd [OR, 1.34 (95% CI, 1.05–1.73)] for BCd more than 1.20 μg/L. The group with the highest BCd was mainly smokers. A spline indicated that at BCd less than 1.0 μg/L, the OR was not increased. The association with BCd was stronger in current smokers and at body mass index (BMI) above 25, while no modification due to receptor status was found.


The results indicated increased risk of breast cancer only for high Cd exposure, which occurred mainly among smokers. This made it difficult to disentangle the effects of smoking and Cd, despite inclusion of smoking habits in the models.


This study provides support for reducing Cd exposure through smoking cessation and dietary choice. On the population level, preventive measures against Cd pollution are warranted.

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