Reducing Exposure

Decreased carcinogen contact along with improved methods for treating cancer provide two important means for curtailing the suffering, expense, and death associated with the disease. The documented existence of carcinogens has prompted a worldwide effort to detect additional cancer-causing agents. A variety of toxicological assessments, including the Ames test, are used to identify potential mutagens and carcinogens. When possible, established carcinogens, such as asbestos, are removed from the environment, home, and workplace.

Exposure can also be reduced if the population is provided with protective warnings, like those advising the use of sunblock to shield skin from the cancer-causing effects of ultraviolet radiation in sunlight. The cost and manpower of such efforts are enormous, but carcinogen identification is critical for ensuring that exposure is minimized. A great challenge is reducing exposure to the carcinogens to which people actively expose themselves, most notably cigarette smoke. Prolonged education programs have helped cut down the use of cigarettes, but continued education is needed for each new generation. see also Ames Test; Breast Cancer; Cancer; Cell Cycle; DNA Repair; Mutagen; Oncogenes; Tumor Suppressor Genes.

David A. Scicchitano


Lodish, Harvey, et al. Molecular Cell Biology, 4th ed. New York: W. H. Freeman, 2000.

Tomatis, Lorenzo. "The Identification of Human Carcinogens and Primary Prevention of Cancer." Mutation Research 462 (2000): 407-421.

Trichopoulos, Dimitrios, Frederick P. Li, and David J. Hunter. "What Causes Cancer?" Scientific American 275 (1996): 80-87.

Weinberg, Robert. "How Cancer Arises." Scientific American 275 (1996): 62-71.

Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular disease is a set of diseases affecting the heart and blood vessels. As with most chronic diseases whose incidence increases with age, it involves both inherited and environmental contributors and is therefore classified as a complex genetic disease. Most researchers believe that all major risk factors for cardiovascular disease have been identified. It is estimated that cigarette smoking, hypertension, abnormal serum cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein cholesterol or high-density lipoprotein cholesterol), obesity, lack of physical exercise, and diabetes account for 50 percent of the variability of risk in high-risk populations. The remaining risk is likely composed of a large number of yet-to-be identified minor risk factors or genetic influences that account for the development of disease in most individuals. Investigators who have attempted to estimate the overall contribution of genetics to the development of cardiovascular disease have proposed numbers ranging from 20 to 60 percent, based upon the analysis of large epidemiologic studies.

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