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Agent that can cause cancer. Exposure to one or more carcinogens, including certain chemicals, radiation, and certain viruses, can initiate cancer under conditions not completely understood. Some people have a genetic tendency to develop cancer when exposed to a specific carcinogen or combination of carcinogens. Repeated local injury or irritation to a part of the body can be carcinogenic. Identifying and eliminating carcinogens in time can reduce the incidence of cancer.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on carcinogen, visit Britannica.com.