A paradox of cadmium: a carcinogen that impairs the capability of human breast cancer cells to induce angiogenesis

J Environ Pathol Toxicol Oncol. 2009;28(1):85-8. doi: 10.1615/jenvironpatholtoxicoloncol.v28.i1.90.


Cadmium, a highly persistent heavy metal, has been categorized as a human carcinogen. Even though it is known that cadmium acts as estrogens in breast cancer cells, several studies failed to demonstrate whether cadmium is a causal factor for breast cancer. The lack of a strong association between cadmium and breast cancer could be found in the antiangiogenic properties of this heavy metal, which might counteract its carcinogenic properties in the progression of breast cancer. In this study, we exposed estrogen-responsive breast cancer cells to subtoxic levels of cadmium, and we evaluated their angiogenic potential using the chick embryo chorioallantoic membrane assay. Exposure of breast cancer cells to subtoxic levels of cadmium significantly inhibited the angiogenic potential of the breast cancer cell line, suggesting the possibility that cadmium might negatively regulate the production of proangiogenic factors in breast cancer cells. Our results suggest that cadmium might exert a paradoxical effect in breast cancer: on the one hand, it could promote carcinogenesis, and, on the other hand, it could delay the onset of tumors by inhibiting breast cancer cell-induced angiogenesis.

MeSH terms

  • Angiogenesis Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Angiogenesis Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Animals
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Cadmium / pharmacology*
  • Cadmium / therapeutic use
  • Carcinogens / pharmacology*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Chick Embryo
  • Chorioallantoic Membrane / blood supply
  • Chorioallantoic Membrane / drug effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / drug therapy*


  • Angiogenesis Inhibitors
  • Carcinogens
  • Cadmium