Carcinogens and Cancer

Cancer and stethoscope

  • Cancer is a term used to describe a group of illnesses all having certain common characteristics, including an over-growth of cells that forms a tumour.
  • Cancer comes in many shapes and sizes, and how it affects the body varies greatly. There are over 200 different types of cancer, each with a specific name, treatment and chance of being cured.
  • What all cancers have in common is the lack of normal cell growth, which can result in serious health problems.
  • Certain chemicals known as carcinogens may directly affect the cell, or a by-product from its metabolism in the body may cause the effect. Some chemicals will only act to promote cancer when other substances, often non-carcinogenic, are present.
  • Carcinogens do not cause cancer in every case. Substances classified as carcinogens may have different levels of cancer-causing potential and for any particular person, the risks of developing cancer depends on many factors, including the length and intensity of exposure to the carcinogen and the person’s genetic make-up.
  • Mutagens cause permanent changes in the genetic material in an organism. A mutagen may cause heritable genetic damage and is also generally regarded as a possible carcinogen.
  • The Carcinogens Regulations apply to both carcinogens and mutagens.