The exact affect carcinogens have is still under debate. It is thought that the varying agents cause inflammation of cells. As proliferation takes place, the particle will remain in place and cause mutation of what should be normal, healthy cells. There is also a theory that there is a chemical reaction that occurs between the carcinogenic material and the cells around it, resulting in cancerous cells.
Carcinogens (like tobacco, inhaled asbestos, environmental toxins, pollutants, etc) enter the body, most often via inhalation. Once a carcinogen has entered the body the body tries to make the carcinogen water-soluble in order to remove it from the body. This process, known as bioransformation is, essentially, a “transformation” or change that alters the chemical. This process applies to nutrients, amino acids and drugs among other chemicals.
Occasionally the process makes a chemical more dangerous to the body.
The exact mechanism by which a carcinogen causes cancer depends on the carcinogen in question. But one way or another, carcinogens cause cancer by causing mutations in genes responsible for the regulation of cell division. For instance, ‘oncogenes’ are genes which code for proteins that stimulate cell division. If a mutation occurs in an oncogene, there is a possibility that cell division might become permanently switched ‘on’. This causes cancer. Likewise, ‘tumor suppressor genes’ normally inhibit cell division. If a mutation occurs to a ‘tumor suppressor gene’ which permanently switches it off, cell division can likewise go unchecked, causing cancer.
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