Metals are one of five major categories of carcinogenic or toxic constituents in tobacco and tobacco smoke. Cadmium is highly volatile and a higher percentage of the total tobacco cadmium content is efficiently transferred to mainstream tobacco smoke than many other toxic metals in tobacco. Inhaled cadmium bioaccumulates in the lungs and is distributed beyond the lungs to other tissues, with a total body biological half-life of one to two decades. Chronic cadmium exposure through tobacco use elevates blood and urine cadmium concentrations. Cadmium is a carcinogen, and an inducer of proinflammatory immune responses. Elevated exposure to cadmium is associated with reduced pulmonary function, obstructive lung disease, bronchogenic carcinoma, cardiovascular diseases including myocardial infarction, peripheral arterial disease, prostate cancer, cervical cancer, pancreatic cancer, and various oral pathologies. Cadmium and zinc have a toxicologically inverse relationship. Zinc is an essential element and is reportedly antagonistic to some manifestations of cadmium toxicity. This review summarizes associations between blood, urine, and tissue cadmium concentrations with emphasis on cadmium exposure due to tobacco use and several disease states. Available data about zinc and cadmium/zinc ratios and tobacco-related diseases is summarized from studies reporting smoking status. Collectively, data suggest that blood, urine, and tissue cadmium and cadmium/zinc ratios are often significantly different between smokers and nonsmokers and they are also different in smokers for several diseases and cancers. Additional biomonitoring data such as blood or serum and urine zinc and cadmium levels and cadmium/zinc ratios in smokers may provide further insight into the development and progression of diseases of the lung, cardiovascular system, and possibly other organs.
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