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Ways Carcinogens Cause Cancer

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Carcinogens are any substances or exposures that can lead to cancer. How carcinogens cause cancer is a topic that undergoes intense research and studies.

Different carcinogens act in different ways to cause cancer.

While some are strong enough to act directly on the DNA structure to cause mutation, some others act indirectly by other ways such as increasing cell division or disrupting cellular metabolic processes.

A thorough knowledge about how carcinogens cause cancer is important, both to prevent and treat cancer. Usually, we consider chemicals, pesticides or radiation as the major causes of cancer.

However, there are many other reasons that can be more common than these. They are viral infections, fungal infections by strains such as Aspergillus flavus, tobacco, asbestos and vinyl chloride.

So, why do carcinogens cause cancer even when we have complicated systems and mechanisms that
Apart from direct carcinogens, there are some chemicals called co-carcinogens that will not cause cancer directly, but will act as a support for promoting the action of these carcinogens.

Here, we will discuss how carcinogens cause cancer. Read on for more information:



Mutation is caused by carcinogens that come under the category of genotoxins. They cause damages to the DNA structure that are irreversible.

N-nitroso-N-methylurea (NMU) or non-chemical agents such as ultraviolet rays and ionising radiations are some important examples for this. Apart from theses, certain viruses can also cause gene mutations.


Defect In Cell Repair

Our cells are functioning properly because of the highly efficient repair mechanism that will correct any possible error that can occur during cell division.

Why carcinogens cause cancer even when there is an effective DNA repair system? Any defect in this repair mechanism will result in defective DNA that will cause abnormal and uncontrolled growth of cells, causing cancer.


Accelerating Cell Division

Certain carcinogens act by increasing the rate of cell division. This will in turn increase the chances of errors in the DNA structure.

So, the risk of getting cancer differs from a person to person, depending on how the body of each one reacts to the carcinogen.


Unbalanced Cell Growth And Cell Death

There is a natural balance between cell growth and cell death. But, due to the action of carcinogens, there will be an alteration in the normal mechanism of cell death.

In such cases, the process of cell death will slow down and the cells will continue to divide. This abnormal ratio will eventually result in cancer.



Heredity plays a crucial role in determining the chance of a person to get cancer. If a person has a family history of any type of cancer, chances are more that he/she will be more susceptible to the action of carcinogens.

External carcinogenic factors will also increase the risk of getting cancer.


Other Factors

There are some factors that will determine why carcinogens cause cancer. These are the age and gender of a person, the duration of exposure to the carcinogen and the potency of the carcinogen to produce cancer, even due to small amounts of exposure.

Read more about: cancer, wellness
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