A carcinogen is any substance, radionuclide, or radiation that is an agent directly involved in causing cancer. This may be due to the ability to damage the genome or to the disruption of cellular metabolic processes. 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. Cancer is caused by changes in a cell’s DNA – its genetic “blueprint.” Some of these changes may be inherited from our parents, while others may be caused by outside exposures, which are often referred to as environmental factors. Environmental factors can include a wide range of exposures, such as:
- Lifestyle factors (nutrition, tobacco use, physical activity, etc.)
- Naturally occurring exposures (ultraviolet light, radon gas, infectious agents, etc.)
- Medical treatments (radiation and medicines including chemotherapy, hormone drugs, drugs that suppress the immune system, etc.)
- Workplace exposures
- Household exposures
Carcinogens do not cause cancer in every case, all the time. Substances labeled as carcinogens may have different levels of cancer-causing potential. Some may cause cancer only after prolonged, high levels of exposure. And for any particular person, 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. Testing to see if something can cause cancer is often difficult. It is not ethical to test a substance by exposing people to it and seeing if they get cancer from it. That’s why scientists must use other types of tests, which may not always give clear answers.
THE CARDIOPULMONARY SYSTEM
Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable illness and death in the United States. It causes many different cancers as well as chronic lung diseases such as emphysema and bronchitis, heart disease, pregnancy-related problems, and many other serious health problems.
– Each day, more than 3,200 people under 18 smoke their first cigarette, and approximately 2,100 youth and young adults become daily smokers.
– 9 out of 10 smokers start before the age of 18, and 98% start smoking by age 26.
– 1 in 5 adults and teenagers smoke.
– In 2011, an estimated 19% of U.S. adults were cigarette smokers.
– Approximately 18% of high school students smoke cigarettes.
– In 2011, nearly 18% of high school boys were current cigar users.
– From 1964 to 2014, the proportion of adult smokers declined from 42.0% to 18.0%.
– More than 16 million people already have at least one disease from smoking.
– More than 20 million Americans have died because of smoking since 1964, including approximately 2.5 million deaths due to exposure to secondhand smoke.
– 8.6 million people live with a serious illness caused by smoking.
– On average, smokers die 13 to 14 years earlier than nonsmokers
– Nearly 9 out of 10 lung cancers are caused by smoking. Smokers today are much more likely to develop lung cancer than smokers were in 1964.
– Nearly 8 out of 10 Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease deaths are a result of smoking. Currently, there is no cure.
– Women smokers are up to 40 times more likely to develop Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease than women who have never smoked.
– Smoking increases a person’s risk of getting tuberculosis and dying from it.
– More than 11% of high school students in the United States have asthma, and studies suggest that youth who smoke are more likely to develop asthma.
– Smoking slows down lung growth in children and teens.
– Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women in the United States, and 90% of lung cancer deaths among men and approximately 80% of lung cancer deaths among women are due to smoking.
Smoking causes many other types of cancer, including cancers of the throat, mouth, nasal cavity, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, kidney, bladder, and cervix, as well as acute myeloid leukemia.
Men with prostate cancer who smoke may be more likely to die from the disease than nonsmokers.
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