The Role of Blood Lead, Cadmium, Zinc and Copper in Development and Severity of Acne Vulgaris in a Nigerian Population

Biol Trace Elem Res. 2017 Apr;176(2):251-257. doi: 10.1007/s12011-016-0839-4. Epub 2016 Sep 6.


Acne vulgaris is a very common skin disorder affecting human beings. There is a paucity of report on the role of heavy metals-lead (Pb) and cadmium (Cd)-globally, and trace metals-zinc (Zn) and copper (Cd)-particularly in Nigeria in the development/severity of acne vulgaris. This study is aimed to determine the blood levels of some heavy metals-cadmium and lead-and trace metals-zinc and copper-in acne vulgaris sufferers in a Nigerian population. Venous blood samples were collected from a total number of 90 non-obese female subjects consisting of 30 mild, 30 moderate and 30 severe acne vulgaris sufferers for blood Cd, Pb, Cu and Zn determination. They were age-matched with 60 females without acne vulgaris who served as the control subjects. Acne sufferers had significantly higher blood Cd and Pb (P = 0.0143 and P = 0.0001 respectively) and non-significantly different blood levels of Cu and Zn (P = 0.910 and P = 0.2140 respectively) compared to controls. There were significant progressive increases in blood levels of Cd and Pb (P = 0.0330 and P = 0.0001 respectively) and non-significant differences in the mean blood level of Cu and Zn (P = 0.1821 and P = 0.2728 respectively) from mild to moderate and severe acne vulgaris sufferers. Increases in blood Cd and Pb may play critical roles in the pathogenesis/severity of acne vulgaris, while Cu and Zn seem to play less significant roles in the development of this disorder in this environment.

Keywords: Acne vulgaris; Cadmium; Copper; Lead; Nigeria; Zinc.

MeSH terms

  • Acne Vulgaris / blood*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cadmium / blood*
  • Copper / blood*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lead / blood*
  • Nigeria
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Young Adult
  • Zinc / blood*


  • Cadmium
  • Lead
  • Copper
  • Zinc