Background: Cadmium (Cd) is considered as a human carcinogen. A potential intermediate mechanism could be hormone-related by disturbing steroidogenesis in gonads and adrenal glands. We tested whether urinary Cd excretion, as a marker of long-term exposure, is associated with the urinary steroid profile in the general adult population.
Methods and Findings: The Swiss Kidney Project on Genes in Hypertension (SKIPOGH) is a multicentric family-based population study with a response rate of 25.6%. We measured 24-h urinary excretions of Cd and steroid hormone metabolites by gas chromatography and mass spectrometry in 1000 participants (473 men, 527 women), with separate day and night collections. Mixed linear models were used to analyse the associations of each steroid metabolite with Cd excretion.
Cd and testosterone excretions were positively associated in men (β[SE, P]: 1.378[0.242, <0.00001] and 1.440[0.333, 0.00002] for day and night, respectively), but not in women (0.333[0.257, 0.2] and 0.674[0.361, 0.06]). There was a strong positive association of the urinary excretion of Cd and cortisol (0.475[0.157, 0.0025] and 0.877[0.194, 0.00001], for day and 0.875[0.253, 0.00053] and 1.183[0.277, 0.00002] for night, respectively). Cd excretion was not associated with the excretion of tetrahydroaldosterone, the major metabolite of aldosterone, but with other mineralocorticoid metabolites (P<0.01 in men and women). Further adjustment revealed an independent effect between the synthesis of sex hormones and corticosteroids and an interdependent effect of Cd on gluco- and mineralcorticoid synthesis.
Conclusions: Our findings provide evidence for a global stimulating effect of low-dose Cd exposure on sex and corticosteroid synthesis in the general adult population. Further studies are needed to explore the health consequences of chronic low-dose exposure to Cd on selected diseases such as steroid-sensitive cancers or metabolic disorders.
20 - 23 May 2017
European Society of Endocrinology