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Environ Health Perspect. 2011 Aug;119(8):1156-61. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1003284. Epub 2011 May 4.

Cadmium, lead, and mercury in relation to reproductive hormones and anovulation in premenopausal women.

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Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Epidemiology Branch, Rockville, Maryland, USA.



Metals can interfere with hormonal functioning by binding at the receptor site and through indirect mechanisms; thus, they may be associated with hormonal changes in premenopausal women.


We examined the associations between cadmium, lead, and mercury, and anovulation and patterns of reproductive hormones [estradiol, progesterone, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone] among 252 premenopausal women 18-44 years of age who were enrolled in the BioCycle Study in Buffalo, New York.


Women were followed for up to two menstrual cycles, with serum samples collected up to eight times per cycle. Metal concentrations were determined at baseline in whole blood by inductively coupled mass spectroscopy. Marginal structural models with stabilized inverse probability weights and nonlinear mixed models with harmonic terms were used to estimate the effects of cadmium, lead, and mercury on reproductive hormone levels during the menstrual cycle and anovulation.


Geometric mean (interquartile range) cadmium, lead, and mercury levels were 0.29 (0.19-0.43) μg/L, 0.93 (0.68-1.20) μg/dL, and 1.03 (0.58-2.10) μg/L, respectively. We observed decreases in mean FSH with increasing cadmium [second vs. first tertile: -10.0%; 95% confidence interval (CI), -17.3% to -2.5%; third vs. first tertile: -8.3%; 95% CI, -16.0% to 0.1%] and increases in mean progesterone with increasing lead level (second vs. first tertile: 7.5%; 95% CI, 0.1-15.4%; third vs. first tertile: 6.8%; 95% CI, -0.8% to 14.9%). Metals were not significantly associated with anovulation.


Our findings support the hypothesis that environmentally relevant levels of metals are associated with modest changes in reproductive hormone levels in healthy, premenopausal women.

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