1. A carcinogen is any substance, radionuclide, or radiation that promotes carcinogenesis, the formation of cancer. This may be due to the ability to damage the genome or to the disruption of cellular metabolic processes.
2. Common examples of non-radioactive carcinogens are inhaled asbestos, certain dioxins, and tobacco smoke. Although the public generally associates carcinogenicity with synthetic chemicals, it is equally likely to arise in both natural and synthetic substances. Carcinogens are not necessarily immediately toxic; thus, their effect can be insidious.
3. Cancer is any disease in which normal cells are damaged and do not undergo programmed cell death as fast as they divide via mitosis. Carcinogens may increase the risk of cancer by altering cellular metabolism or damaging DNA directly in cells, which interferes with biological processes, and induces the uncontrolled, malignant division, ultimately leading to the formation of tumors.
4. Many people worry that substances or exposures in their environment may cause cancer.
5. Cancer is caused by changes in a cell’s DNA – its genetic “blueprint.” Some may be caused by outside exposures, which are often referred to as environmental factors. Environmental factors can include a wide range of exposures).
6. Substances and exposures that can lead to cancer are called carcinogens. Some carcinogens do not affect DNA directly, but lead to cancer in other ways. For example, they may cause cells to divide at a faster than normal rate, which could increase the chances that DNA changes will occur.
7. The risk of developing cancer depends on many factors, including how they are exposed to a carcinogen, the length and intensity of the exposure, and the person’s genetic makeup.