InfoGraphics: Carcinogens

What is a carcinogen?

Carcinogen is a substance, an organism, or an agent that causes cancer. It can occur naturally due to ultraviolet rays, viruses etc. Yet humans can also induce it through various activities that harm the environment. Some examples of carcinogens are nickel, cadmium, radon, vinyl chloride, benzidine, and benzene. 

How does climate change affect carcinogens?

First, climate change affects the state of carcinogens on earth in a direct form. For instance, industrial pollution causes lung cancer and breast cancer. In addition, the carbon emissions of industrial companies have a negative impact on agriculture, which results in malnutrition as carcinogens enter the food chain through pesticides and gene-edited food. Along with this, the increased UV exposure due to Ozone depletion leads to many skin cancers, like melanoma. Also, the smoke and debris of wildfires release pollutants, such as poly-aromatic hydrocarbons, benzene, and formaldehyde, which increase carcinogens, and even the firefighting foam that is used to put them out is in itself carcinogenic. Moreover, the combustion of fossil fuels triggers changes in the climate and high temperatures, which activate inert chemicals and convert them into carcinogens, thus raising the amount of toxic chemicals in the environment. Second, climate change has a more indirect effect on carcinogens, which involves disasters that damage access to clean air, water, and food; hence, it reduces the immunity of humans against diseases, including those caused by carcinogens. Furthermore, environmental catastrophes destroy infrastructure, which hinders cancer patients from reaching hospitals. This also deters people who suspect they might have cancer from getting a diagnosis, as was the case at the time of the Coronavirus pandemic, when possible cancer patients refrained from going to health facilities in order not to contract the virus. It must be noted that even the equipment that is used for cancer care, in particular radiation therapy, contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, which starts a vicious circle of climate change and carcinogen.

Warfare and carcinogens

The atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945 were very powerful, emitting a cancer-causing substance. The DNA of people who were exposed to the intense radiation emitted from these bombs was damaged, and at the same time, this radiation caused cancer. People exposed to this radiation had a 50% higher risk of developing cancer than ordinary people.

What triggers carcinogen?

Many things can trigger it. They could be genetic, environmental, and even may be due to individual body constitutions, which are an ancient Chinese diagnostic approach to identify an individual’s bodily harmony in order to treat and diagnose diseases. Accordingly, the preferrable body constitution is neutral; however, there are many constitutions such as ki and yin and yang. Moreover, risk factors contribute to increased chances of developing carcinogens (lifestyle, career, family history, genetic disorder, repetitive exposure, environmental elements, chemotherapy, and radiation) and the most well-known risk factors could be around us, such as the sun, tobacco, artificial fertilizers, talc (which is a substance used highly in makeup products), soot and coal waste, UV rays, alcohol, aluminum, benzene used in deodorants and perfumes making them not only flammable but carcinogenic with prolonged use. It is also found in plastics and shampoos. Carcinogens are also found in engine exhaust, menopausal therapy, opium, paint, processed meat, brown food, and of course, pollution.

Fun fact (!)

Marie Curie is the first woman to win the Nobel prize twice in two different fields, which are physics and chemistry. Curie is a Polish scientist renowned for discovering Polonium and Radium. She passed away from overexposure to these chemicals, which cause aplastic anemia, and her body has been emitting radiation for over 150 years. This led scientists to seal her coffin with lead to prevent the public from getting carcinogenic radiation. Her body, even her lifetime scientific notes and transcripts, were coated in lead and placed in a museum in France.

Tabark Alattar
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Salma Naciri
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Noruhakkuege Kayaoğlu
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