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Ann Transl Med. 2018 Aug;6(16):320. doi: 10.21037/atm.2018.08.09.

Study on the relationship between age and the concentrations of heavy metal elements in human bone.

Chang L1,2, Shen S1, Zhang Z1,2, Song X1,2, Jiang Q1,2.

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Department of Sports Medicine and Adult Reconstructive Surgery, Drum Tower Hospital affiliated to Medical School of Nanjing University, Nanjing 210000, China.
Joint Research Center for Bone and Joint Disease, Model Animal Research Center (MARC), Nanjing University, Nanjing 210093, China.



Excessive amounts of heavy metals such as cadmium, chromium, cobalt, lead, thallium, and manganese are extremely harmful to the human body. These elements can accumulate in bone and impact bone metabolism. In this study, we investigated the relationship between age and the concentrations of these elements in human bone and blood.


Bone and blood samples were obtained from both older and younger patients. The concentrations of the elements under investigation were measured by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS), and the specific concentrations in the bone and blood were then calculated.


The results showed that with increasing age, the concentrations of chromium, cobalt, and thallium in bone decreased significantly, while the concentration of cadmium in bone markedly increased. However, there was no clear correlation between age and the concentrations of these heavy metals in blood. Notably, there was a close correlation between the concentration of cobalt in bone and the presence of osteopenia.


Senescence of the human body is accompanied by the shifting of cobalt, chromium, and thallium from the bone to the outer- bone. However, the concentration of cadmium in bone increases with age. These changes are very likely to be related to the equilibrium of bone metabolism in senescent individuals. In addition, only cobalt was shown to be significantly related to osteopenia.


Heavy metal elements; age; blood concentration; bone concentration; osteopenia

Conflict of interest statement

Conflicts of Interest: The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.

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