What are carcinogens
Carcinogens are now spoken about everywhere. In oncology, even there is a whole section on the relationship between the effects of carcinogens and the appearance of tumors. The very name "carcinogens" speaks for itself. These are substances that cause cancer and other tumors.
How are carcinogens formed? Where in everyday life can a person meet them? What are the most harmful carcinogens and how to protect themselves from their harmful effects?
Description of carcinogens
Carcinogens are natural or man-made substances that can cause tumor formation under certain conditions. These agents can induce cancer not only in humans, but also in animals. The nature of carcinogens can be different. It's not just chemical compounds, as many mistakenly think. Biological and physical objects are also considered carcinogens if they can lead to cancer. Chemical carcinogens are the most common.
Biological carcinogens include hepatitis B virus, Epstein-Barr virus or papillomavirus. Physical carcinogens are ionizing and ultraviolet radiation, X-rays and gamma rays.
Chemical carcinogens belong to substances of various types. By chemical structure, they are divided into the following types:
- polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons;
- nitrogen-containing aromatic substances;
- metals and salts of inorganic origin;
- amino compounds;
- nitroso compounds and nitramines.
Classification by the nature of the effect on the organism identifies:
substances that cause cancer at the site of contact;
- substances that have a carcinogenic effect on a particular organ;
- carcinogens affecting the entire body or several organs and systems.
The following chemicals have a carcinogenic effect when exposed to humans:
- some dyes and additives used for food;
- products of oil combustion;
- constituents of carbon monoxide;
- products of burning of plastics;
- toxins of mold fungi (aflatoxin);
- chrome hexavalent;
- alkaloids of some plants.
Carcinogenic substances are formed not only in the process of human activity, but also in nature.
It is possible to be exposed to carcinogens not only in production conditions, but also in everyday life. Where are carcinogens contained? Many of them are formed as a result of human activity, and some produce nature itself. City air, and now not only urban, is full of carcinogens. When burning household waste generates dioxins, benzene and other cyclic hydrocarbons, formaldehyde.
The carcinogenic substance of tobacco smoke is benzapyrene. What other carcinogens are contained in tobacco smoke? - arsenic, radioactive polonium and radium. Vinyl chloride, which was also found in cigarettes, is not only carcinogenic, but also teratogenic (harmful to the fetus) and mutagenic actions. Smokeless tobacco products, such as snuff or chewing tobacco mixtures, contain lime, which can also cause cancer.
Alcohol products can also cause cancer. It is proved that acetaldehyde, formed as a result of ethanol processing, is capable of causing DNA damage. In people who often drink alcohol, the incidence of cancer of the esophagus, pharynx and oral cavity is significantly higher.
In everyday life with carcinogens you may encounter when cooking foods. When frying carcinogens are formed not only as a result of oil caking, but also with excessive heating of Teflon containers or their damage.
At present, the number of products containing various additives, such as flavors, dyes, taste enhancers, etc., exceeds natural. And vegetables and fruits sold in supermarkets and markets are stuffed 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 in 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 incomplete name of harmful substance in the composition or simply not indicating it.
Everyone uses drugs. But not everyone knows that some of them contain carcinogens. Here is a list of drugs containing carcinogens:
- analgesics containing phenacetin;
- "Prednisolone", "Vincristine", "Procarbazine", embichin, which are used in combination;
- non-steroidal and steroid estrogens.
Industrial carcinogens are released as a result of production processes. They fall into the air, water, and also directly affect people working with them. What enterprises can expose workers to contact with carcinogens?
- Woodworking and furniture.
- Mining enterprises and mines.
- Processing coal.
- Plants for the production of rubber and products made of it.
- Institutions producing carbon and graphite products, electrical conductors.
- Plants for the production of cast iron, steel.
As a result of prolonged and systematic contact with coal, skin cancer can develop. And the workers of paint and varnish enterprises noticeably higher prevalence of bladder cancer.
Mechanism of carcinogenic action
Among carcinogens, organic compounds account for a larger proportion than inorganic substances.
As mentioned above, carcinogens are substances that cause tumors. From Latin this word is translated as "forming a cancer." How do these agents work? Penetrating into the body, carcinogens accumulate in the target organ, if any, or spread throughout the body. They then bind to cellular DNA or RNA. There is a problem with copying the genes. A new DNA may have a completely different (anomalous) structure. Also, the process of self-destruction of old cells (apoptosis) is more often disrupted, and the number of "wrong" cells increases. Tumor growth is observed throughout the body. Depending on the type of carcinogenic substance, the duration and periodicity of exposure, the amount, there may be benign or malignant tumors. But poisoning with chemicals that contain carcinogens greatly increases the risk of developing cancer.
Some of the most powerful carcinogens are recognized:
- vinyl chloride;
- heavy metals and their salts;
Carcinogens in food and their effect 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, pasta, confectionery (they contain refined hydrocarbons);
- carbonated beverages containing caramel dye;
- dry breakfasts (they produce acrylamide, which changes DNA or destroys it);
- popcorn (contains perfluorooctanoic acid);
- aspartame, saccharin, present in some sweeteners;
- canned tomatoes (dangerous with bisphenol-A);
- fish grown in private ponds (it could be fed with various additives, hormones, treated with antibiotics);
- long-stored products, for example, canned food (nitrates and nitrites increase their shelf life);
- food additives (E-121 red citrus and amaranth E-123).
How to protect yourself from exposure to carcinogens
In order not to be exposed to the carcinogenic effect of certain products, one should avoid their use. It is necessary to switch to organically grown fruits and vegetables. If this is not possible, you should very carefully wash the plants and peel. Fish and meat must be bought from trusted sources. It is better to completely abandon the processed meat products. Avoid food containing GMOs and sweeteners. From carbonated drinks, white bread and confectionery, popcorn, breakfast cereals and chips, it's best to stay away. Preserved tomatoes are better to prefer in glass jars, but not in tins. Do not abuse alcohol.
How to remove carcinogens from the body? Our liver is capable of this. It is she who "collects", accumulates and displays all harmful elements from our body. Eat often and fractional, at least 4-5 times a day. There are plenty of vegetables and fruits. Use natural enterosorbents (bran, plantain, apples, cabbage). It has been proved by several researches that cabbage removes carcinogens formed during meat frying.
The main place of accumulation of carcinogenic substances is adipose tissue. Accordingly, to deduce 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 exercise will not only help to lose weight, but will also increase metabolism, speed up the excretion of carcinogens.