Association between Trace Element and Heavy Metal Levels in Hair and Nail with Prostate Cancer

  • Karimi, Golgis (Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia) ;
  • Shahar, Suzana (Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia) ;
  • Homayouni, Nasim (Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia) ;
  • Rajikan, Roslee (Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia) ;
  • Bakar, Nor Faizah Abu (Science Services Section, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia) ;
  • Othman, Mohd Sham (Environmental Health Programme, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia)
  • Published : 2012.09.30


While associations between trace elements and heavy metals with prostate cancer are still debatable, they have been considered as risk factors for prostate cancer. Thus, this study aimed to detect any links between selected minerals and heavy metals including Se, Zn, Cu, Mn and Fe with prostate cancer. A case control study was carried out among 100 subjects (case n=50, control n=50), matched for age and ethnicity. Trace elements and heavy metals level in hair and nail samples were determined by ICP-MS. Mean selenium levels in hair and nail of the cases were significantly lower as compared to controls. A similar trend was noted for zinc in both hair and nail samples, whereas the mean level of copper was significantly higher in cases than controls. Similar elevation was noted for iron and manganese (p<0.05 for all parameters). Low levels of selenium and zinc and high levels of copper, iron and manganese appear to be associated with the risk of prostate cancer. Further studies to elucidate the causal mechanisms and appropriate chemopreventive measures are needed.


  1. Adaramoye OA, Akinloye O, Olatunji IK, (2010). Trace elements and vitamin E status in Nigerian patients with prostate cancer. Afr Health Sci, 10, 2-8.
  2. Bae YJ, Yeon JY, Sung CJ, Kim HS, Sung MK, (2009). Dietary intake and serum levels of iron in relation to oxidative stress in breast cancer patients. J Clin Biochem Nutr, 45, 355-60.
  3. Banas A, Kwiatek WM, Banas K, et al (2010). Correlation of concentrations of selected trace elements with gleason grade of prostate tissues. J Biol Inorg Chem, 15, 1147-55.
  4. Brooks JD, Metter EJ, Chan DW (2001). Plasma selenium level before diagnosis and the risk of prostate cancer development. J Urol, 166, 2034-8.
  5. Chan AT, Ma J, Tranah GJ, et al (2005). Hemochoromotasis gene, mutation, body iron stores,dietary irons, and risk of colorectal adenoma in women. J Natl Cancer Inst, 15, 917-26.
  6. Chatt A, Katz SA (1988). The biological basis for trace elements in hair. Hair analysis.Biomedicaland.Environmental Sciences (VCH publishers, New York).
  7. Choi J, Neuhouser M, Barnett M, et al (2008). Iron intake, oxidative stress-related genes (MnSOD and MPO) and prostate cancer risk in CARET cohort. Carcinogenesis, 29, 964-70.
  8. Chua C, Morgan H (1996). Effects of iron deficiency and iron overload on manganese uptake and deposition in the brain and other organs of the rat. Biol Trace Element Res, 55, 39-54.
  9. Costello LC, Franklin RB (2011). Zinc is decreased in prostate cancer: an established relationship of prostate cancer. J Biol Inorg Chem, 16, 3-8.
  10. Dunna BK, Richmonda ES, Minasiana LM, Ryana AM, Forda LG (2011). A nutrient approach to prostate cancer prevention: The selenium and vitamin E cancer prevention trial (SELECT). Nutr Cancer, 62, 896-918.
  11. Epstein MM, Kasperzyk JL, Andren O, et al (2011). Dietary zinc and prostate cancer survival in a Swedish cohort. Am J Clin Nutr, 93, 586-93.
  12. Gammelgaard B, Peters K, Menne T (1991). Reference values for the nickel concentration in human finger nails. J Trace Elem Electrolytes Health Dis, 5, 121-3.
  13. Gsur A, Feik E, Stephan M (2004). Genetic polymorphisms and prostate cancer risk. World J Urol, 21, 414-23.
  14. Harris GK, Shi Xianglin (2003). Signaling by carcinogenic metals and metal-induced reactive oxygen species. Mutate Res, 533, 183-200.
  15. Jarup L (2003). Hazards of heavy metal contamination. Br Med Bull, 68, 167-82.
  16. Killilea NA, Aydin A, Arsova-Sarafinovska Z, et al (2007). Zinc deficiency reduces paclitaxel efficacy in LNCaP prostate cancer cells. Cancer Lett, 258, 70-9.
  17. Lee DH, Jacobs DRJ (2005). Interaction among heme iron, zinc and supplemental vitamin C intake on the risk of lung cancer. Iowa women's health study. Nutr Cancer, 52 ,130-7.
  18. Lee JD, Wu SM, Lu LY, Yang YT, Jeng SY (2009). Cadmium concentration and metallothionein expression in prostate cancer and benign prostatic hyperplasia of humans. J Formos Med Assoc, 108, 554-9.
  19. Mahata J, Basu A, Ghoshal S, et al (2003). Chromosomal aberrations and sister chromatid exchanges in individuals exposed to arsenic through drinking water in West Bengal, India. Mutat Res, 534, 133-43.
  20. Majumder S, Chatterjee S, Pal S, et al (2009). The role of copper in drug-resistant murine and human tumors. Biometals, 22, 377-84.
  21. Mehra R, Juneja M (2005). Elements in scalp hair and nails indicating metal body burden in polluted environment. J Sci Ind Res, 64, 119-24.
  22. Ministry of Health. Protocol for collecting height, weight and waist measurements in New zealand health monitor (NZHM) surveys, Wellington: Ministry of Health 2008. Available at:$File/ protocols-for-collectingheight-weight-waist-measurements. pdf .
  23. Montazeri A, Vahdaninia M, Ebrahimi M, Jarvandi S (2003). The hospital anxiety and depression scale (HADS): translation and validation study of the Iranian version. Health Qual Life Outcomes, 1, 14.
  24. Muzandu K, Shaban Z, Ishizuka M, Kazusaka A, Fujita S (2005). Nitric oxid enhances catechol estrogen-induced oxidative stress in LNCaP cells. Free Radic Res, 39, 389-98.
  25. Pasha Q, Malik SA, Shah MH (2008). Statistical analysis of trace metals in the plasma of cancer patients versus controls. J Hazard Mater, 153, 1215-21.
  26. Reyes HL, Gayon JM, Garcia JI, Sanz-Medel A (2002). Determination of selenium in biological materials by isotope dilution analysis with an octapole reaction system ICP-MS. JAAS, 18, 11-6.
  27. Sapota A, Darago' A, Taczalski J, Kilanowicz A (2009). Disturbed homeostasis of zinc and other essential elements in the prostate gland dependent on the character of pathological lesions. Biometals, 22, 1041-9.
  28. Shahar S, Shafurah S, Abu Hasnan Shaari NS, et al (2011). Roles of dietary, lifetime physical activity and oxidative DNA damage in the occurrence of prostate cancer among men in Klang Valley. Asian Pac J Cancer Prev, 12, 1-6.
  29. Shahar S, Cham BG, Ahmad Rohi G, et al (2009). Relationship between selenium and breast cancer: a case-control study in the Klang Valley. Singapore Med J, 50, 265.
  30. Siah CW, Trinder D, Olynyk JK (2005). Iron overload. Clin Chim Acta, 358, 24-36.
  31. Uauy R, Olivares M, Gonzalez M (1998). Essentiality of copper in humans. Am J Clin Nutr; 67, 952-9.
  32. Vinceti M, Venturelli M, Sighinolfi C, et al (2007). Case-control study of toenail cadmium and prostate cancer risk in Italy. Sci Total Environ, 373, 77-8.
  33. Wu Y, Yu Y., Xu G (1988). Clinical study on serum copper, zinc levels and copper/ zinc ratio in malignant lymphoma, Chin J Oncol, 10, 335-7.
  34. Zhao W, Han Z (1998). Relationship of serum trace elements to lung cancer and clinical application. Chin J Epidemiol, 19, 286-90.
  35. Zhou W, Park S, Liu G, et al (2005). Dietary iron, zinc and calcium and the risk of lung cancer. Epidemiology, 16 ,772-9.

Cited by

  1. Lack of Association between Fingernail Selenium and Thyroid Cancer Risk: A Case-Control Study in French Polynesia vol.15, pp.13, 2014,
  2. Prostate-Specific Antigen Levels in Relation to Background Factors: Are there Links to Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals and AhR Expression? vol.15, pp.15, 2014,
  3. Prevention of Prostate Cancer with Vitamins - Current Perspectives vol.15, pp.5, 2014,
  4. Serum Levels of Trace Elements in Patients with Prostate Cancer vol.15, pp.6, 2014,
  5. Preparation of Selenium-enriched Bifidobacterium Longum and its Effect on Tumor Growth and Immune Function of Tumor-Bearing Mice vol.15, pp.8, 2014,
  6. Use of INAA and ICP-MS for the assessment of trace element mass fractions in adult and geriatric prostate vol.301, pp.2, 2014,
  7. Association between maternal aluminum exposure and the risk of congenital heart defects in offspring vol.106, pp.2, 2015,
  8. Current opinion on the role of testosterone in the development of prostate cancer: a dynamic model vol.15, pp.1, 2015,
  9. A Correlation Between Diet and Longevity Characterization by Means of Element Profiles in Healthy People over 80 Years from a Chinese Longevous Region vol.165, pp.1, 2015,
  10. Targeting copper in cancer therapy: ‘Copper That Cancer’ vol.7, pp.11, 2015,
  11. Classification models based on the level of metals in hair and nails of laryngeal cancer patients: diagnosis support or rather speculation? vol.7, pp.3, 2015,
  12. Zinc Intake and Risk of Prostate Cancer: Case-Control Study and Meta-Analysis vol.11, pp.11, 2016,
  13. Hypoadiponectinemia, elevated iron and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein levels and their relation with prostate size in benign prostatic hyperplasia vol.49, pp.7, 2016,
  14. Copper and conquer: copper complexes of di-2-pyridylketone thiosemicarbazones as novel anti-cancer therapeutics vol.8, pp.9, 2016,
  15. Barium exposure increases the risk of congenital heart defects occurrence in offspring pp.1556-9519, 2017,
  16. Atomic Emission Analysis of Human Nails for the Content of Trace Elements vol.73, pp.2, 2018,