Age-related cataract formation is the primary cause of blindness worldwide and although treatable by surgical removal of the lens the majority of sufferers have neither the finances nor access to the medical facilities required. Therefore, a better understanding of the pathogenesis of cataract may identify new therapeutic targets to prevent or slow its progression. Cataract incidence is strongly correlated with age and cigarette smoking, factors that are often associated with accumulation of metal ions in other tissues. Therefore this study evaluated the age-related changes in 14 metal ions in 32 post mortem human lenses without known cataract from donors of 11 to 82 years of age by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry; smoking-related changes in 10 smokers verses 14 non-smokers were also analysed. A significant age-related increase in selenium and decrease in copper ions was observed for the first time in the lens tissue, where cadmium ion levels were also increased as has been seen previously. Aluminium and vanadium ions were found to be increased in smokers compared to non-smokers (an analysis that has only been carried out before in lenses with cataract). These changes in metal ions, i.e. that occur as a consequence of normal ageing and of smoking, could contribute to cataract formation via induction of oxidative stress pathways, modulation of extracellular matrix structure/function and cellular toxicity. Thus, this study has identified novel changes in metal ions in human lens that could potentially drive the pathology of cataract formation.