What are carcinogens?
About carcinogens are now spoken everywhere. In oncology there is even a whole section devoted to the relationship between the effects of carcinogenic substances and the occurrence of tumors. The name "carcinogenic" speaks for itself. These are substances that cause cancer and other neoplasms.
How are carcinogens formed? Where in everyday life can a person meet them? What carcinogens are the most harmful and how to protect themselves from their harmful effects?
Description of carcinogens
Carcinogens are natural or man-made substances that can, under certain conditions, cause the formation of tumors. These agents can induce cancer not only in humans, but also in animals. The nature of carcinogens may be different. These are not only chemical compounds, as many mistakenly think. Biological and physical objects are also considered carcinogenic if capable of leading to cancer. Chemical carcinogens are the most common.
Biological carcinogens include hepatitis B virus, Epstein-Barr or papillomavirus. Physical carcinogens are ionizing and ultraviolet radiation, X-rays and gamma rays.
Chemical carcinogens are substances of various kinds. By chemical structure, they are divided into the following types:
- polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons;
- nitrogenous aromatic substances;
- metals and salts of inorganic origin;
- amino compounds;
- nitroso compounds and nitramines.
The classification by the nature of the impact on the body allocates:
substances causing cancer at the site of contact;
- substances that have a carcinogenic effect on a specific organ;
- carcinogens that affect the whole body or several organs and systems.
The following chemicals have a carcinogenic effect on humans:
- some dyes and edible additives;
- oil combustion products;
- carbon monoxide components;
- burning products of plastics;
- mold fungus toxins (aflatoxin);
- hexavalent chromium;
- alkaloids of some plants.
Carcinogenic substances are formed not only in the process of human activity, but also in nature.
Exposure to carcinogens can be not only in production conditions, but also in everyday life. Where are the carcinogens? Many of them are formed as a result of human activity, and some are produced by nature itself. City air, and now not only city air, is saturated with carcinogens. When burning household waste, dioxins, benzene and other cyclic hydrocarbons, formaldehyde are formed.
Benzopyrene is a carcinogen of tobacco smoke. What other carcinogens are contained in tobacco smoke? - arsenic, radioactive polonium and radium. Vinyl chloride, which was also found in cigarettes, has not only carcinogenic, but also teratogenic (harmful to the fetus) and mutagenic effects. Smokeless tobacco products, such as snuff tobacco or chewing tobacco blends, contain lime, which can also cause cancer.
Alcohol products can also cause cancer. It has been proven that acetaldehyde, which is formed as a result of ethanol processing, can cause DNA damage. In people who often consume alcohol, the incidence of cancer of the esophagus, pharynx and oral cavity is significantly higher.
In everyday life with carcinogens can be encountered when cooking products. During frying, carcinogens are formed not only as a result of oil melting, but also when excessive heating of teflon containers or their damage.
Currently, the number of products containing various additives, such as flavors, colors, flavor enhancers, etc., exceeds natural. And vegetables and fruits sold in supermarkets and markets are crammed with nitrates. In addition, all plants are able to absorb and accumulate harmful substances from the environment. Nuts and grains can also be dangerous. It is not always known under what conditions they were stored and whether these products contain aflatoxin, which is deadly to the human body. Carcinogenic products are prohibited by the requirements of SanPiN, but manufacturers often go for various tricks, using the incomplete name of the harmful substance in the composition or simply by not indicating it.
Everyone uses medication. But not everyone knows that some of them contain carcinogens. Here is a list of drugs containing carcinogens:
- analgesics containing phenacetin;
- "Prednisolone", "Vincristine", "Procarbazine", embihin, which are used in combination;
- non-steroid and steroid estrogens.
Industrial carcinogens are released from manufacturing processes. They get into the air, water, and also directly affect people working with them. What companies can expose workers to contact with carcinogens?
- Woodworking and furniture.
- Copper smelting.
- Mining enterprises and mines.
- Recycling coal.
- Factories for the production of rubber and products from it.
- Institutions that produce carbon and graphite products, electrical conductors.
- Factories for the production of iron and steel.
As a result of prolonged and systematic contact with coal, skin cancer may develop. And at workers of paint and varnish enterprises the prevalence of bladder cancer is significantly higher.
Mechanism of carcinogenic effects
Among carcinogenic substances, organic make up a large proportion as compared to inorganic.
As already mentioned above, tumor causing substances are called carcinogens. From the Latin, this word is translated as "forming cancer." How do these agents work? Penetrating into the body, carcinogens accumulate in the target organ, if there is one or spread throughout the body. They then bind to cellular DNA or RNA. There are problems with copying genes. A new DNA may have a completely different (abnormal) structure. Also, the process of self-destruction of old cells (apoptosis) is most often violated, and the number of “wrong” cells increases. On the scale of the whole organism, tumor growth is observed. Depending on the type of carcinogen, the duration and frequency of exposure, the amount, benign or malignant tumors can occur. But poisoning with chemicals that contain carcinogens greatly increases the risk of cancer.
One of the most powerful carcinogens recognized:
- vinyl chloride;
- heavy metals and their salts;
Carcinogens in food and their effects on the body:
smoked meat, ham, bacon, sausages (contain benzene and phenol);
- GMOs (accumulate in the body and cause the appearance of tumors);
- white bread, cakes, biscuits, macaroni, confectionery (they contain refined hydrocarbons);
- carbonated drinks containing caramel dye;
- dry breakfasts (during their production acrylamide is formed, which alters the DNA or destroys it);
- popcorn (contains perfluorooctanoic acid);
- aspartame, saccharin, present in some sugar substitutes;
- canned tomatoes (dangerous content of bisphenol-A);
- fish grown in private ponds (it could be fed with various additives, hormones, treated with antibiotics);
- long-stored products, such as canned food (nitrates and nitrites increase their shelf life);
- nutritional supplements (E-121 red citrus and amaranth E-123).
How to protect yourself from the effects of carcinogens
In order not to be exposed to the carcinogenic effect of some products, their use should be avoided. You need to go to organically grown fruits and vegetables. If this is not possible, you should wash the plants very carefully and peel them. Fish and meat should be bought from trusted sources. It is better to completely refuse processed meat products. Avoid foods containing GMOs and sweeteners. It is better to stay away from carbonated drinks, white bread and confectionery products, popcorn, breakfast cereals and chips. Canned tomatoes are best preferred in glass jars, rather than tin ones. Do not abuse alcohol.
How to remove carcinogens from the body? Our liver is capable of this. It is she who “collects”, accumulates and removes all harmful elements from our body. You need to eat often and fractionally, at least 4–5 times a day. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Use natural chelators (bran, plantain, apples, cabbage). It has been proven by several studies that cabbage removes carcinogens produced by frying meat.
The main place of accumulation of carcinogenic substances is adipose tissue. Accordingly, to remove them, you need to get rid of excess weight. Different diets do not always help, and sometimes they are even harmful. Emphasis should be placed on proper nutrition and exercise. Physical activity will not only lose weight, but also increase metabolism, accelerate the excretion of carcinogens.