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J Bone Miner Res. 2003 Mar;18(3):553-60.

Influence of environmental cadmium exposure on forearm bone density.

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Department of Bone Metabolism, Institute of Radiation Medicine, Fudan University, Shanghai, China.


Cadmium may have both direct and indirect effects on bone turnover. It is nephrotoxic and can interfere with vitamin D metabolism. Such perturbation may result in osteoporosis and osteomalacia. In this study, a total of 790 persons (302 males and 488 females) participated; they were all over 35 years old and resided in an area near a cadmium smelter in southeast China. All participants completed a questionnaire, and bone mineral density was measured by SPA-4 single-photon absorptiometry at the radius and ulna. Cadmium content of urine was determined by graphite-furnace atomic absorption spectrophotometry as a measure of dose. The decline in bone mineral density with age in a heavily polluted area was greater than that in a control area for subjects over 60 years of age of both sexes (p < 0.05). In single regression, forearm bone densities were negatively correlated with urinary cadmium excretion in both males and females (p < 0.001), whereas stepwise regression showed that forearm bone density decreased linearly with age (p < 0.001) and urinary cadmium (p < 0.01) in both sexes, suggesting a dose-effect relationship between cadmium dose and bone mineral density. Based on the World Health Organization criteria, (bone mineral density < -2.5 SDs below the normal young adult), the prevalence of osteoporosis in women increased from 34.0% in the control area to 51.9% in the heavily polluted area (p < 0.01) among subjects over 50 years old, and the odds ratio value was 2.09 (95% CI: 1.08-4.03) for the highly polluted area compared with the control area. A striking observation in the study was the marked increase of the prevalence of fracture in the cadmium-polluted area in both sexes. It was concluded that environmental exposure to cadmium is associated with an increased loss of bone mineral density in both males and females, leading to osteoporosis and increased risk of fractures, especially in the elderly and in females.

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