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Carcinogen

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Updated March 17, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Definition:

A carcinogen is defined as any substance that can cause or aggravate cancer.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer assigns carcinogens a rating by grouping them into one the following five standard classifications:

  • Group 1: The agent is carcinogenic to humans.
  • Group 2A: The agent is probably carcinogenic to humans.
  • Group 2B: The agent is possibly carcinogenic to humans.
  • Group 3: The agent is not classifiable as to its carcinogenicity to humans.
  • Group 4: The agent is probably not carcinogenic to humans.
See also: Smoking and Cancer

 

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