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Click2Cancer.com  Top Causes of Cancer  >  Carcinogens
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Causes of Cancer
A 'carcinogen' is something that can help to cause cancer.  Tobacco smoke is a powerful carcinogen.  But not everyone who smokes gets lung cancer.  So there must be other factors at work.

The term carcinogen refers to any substance, radionuclide or radiation that is an agent directly involved in the promotion of cancer or in the facilitation of its propagation. This may be due to ability to damage the genome or to the disruption of cellular metabolic processes. Several radioactive substances are considered carcinogens, but their carcinogenic activity is attributed to the radiation, for example gamma rays and alpha particles, which they emit. Common examples of carcinogens are inhaled asbestos, certain dioxins, and tobacco smoke.

There are many natural carcinogens. Aflatoxin B1, which is produced by the fungus Aspergillus flavus growing on stored grains, nuts and peanut butter, is an example of a potent, naturally-occurring microbial carcinogen. Certain viruses such as Hepatitis B and human papilloma viruses have been found to cause cancer in humans. The first one shown to cause cancer in animals is Rous sarcoma virus, discovered in 1910 by Peyton Rous.

Benzene, kepone, EDB, asbestos, and the waste rock of oil shale mining have all been classified as carcinogenic.[citation needed] As far back as the 1930s, industrial smoke and tobacco smoke were identified as sources of dozens of carcinogens, including benzopyrene, tobacco-specific nitrosamines such as nitrosonornicotine, and reactive aldehydes such as formaldehyde which is also a hazard in embalming and making plastics. Vinyl chloride, from which PVC is manufactured, is a carcinogen and thus a hazard in PVC production.

Co-carcinogens are chemicals that do not separately cause
cancer, but do so in specific combinations.  After the carcinogen enters the body, the body makes an attempt to eliminate it through a process called biotransformation. The purpose of these reactions is to make the carcinogen more water-soluble so that it can be removed from the body.