Cadmium carcinogenesis in review

J Inorg Biochem. 2000 Apr;79(1-4):241-4. doi: 10.1016/s0162-0134(00)00009-x.


Cadmium is an inorganic toxicant of great environmental and occupational concern which was classified as a human carcinogen in 1993. Occupational cadmium exposure is associated with lung cancer in humans. Cadmium exposure has also, on occasion, been linked to human prostate cancer. The epidemiological data linking cadmium and pulmonary cancer are much stronger than for prostatic cancer. Other target sites for cadmium carcinogenesis in humans (liver, kidney, stomach) are considered equivocal. In rodents, cadmium causes tumors at several sites and by various routes. Cadmium inhalation in rats results in pulmonary adenocarcinomas, supporting a role in human lung cancer. Prostate tumors and preneoplastic proliferative lesions can be induced in rats after cadmium ingestion or injection. Prostatic carcinogenesis in rats occurs only at cadmium doses below those that induce chronic degeneration and dysfunction of the testes, a well-known effect of cadmium, confirming the androgen dependency of prostate tumors. Other targets of cadmium in rodents include the testes, adrenals, injection sites, and hematopoietic system. Various treatments can modify cadmium carcinogenesis including supplemental zinc, which prevents cadmium-induced injection site and testicular tumors while facilitating prostatic tumors. Cadmium is poorly mutagenic and probably acts through indirect mechanisms, although the precise mechanisms remain unknown.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cadmium / toxicity*
  • Carcinogens / toxicity*
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / chemically induced
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Occupational Exposure
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / chemically induced
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Rats


  • Carcinogens
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Cadmium