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Dr. Clark Lantz - Q & A

Dr. Clark Lantz's responses to the following questions:
1. What is cancer?

Cancer isn't just one disease, but over 100 different diseases. Cancer may have similar developments within the body, but have different causes in different organs in the body. Organs are affected by different chemicals. For example, what causes cancer in the liver may not affect other organs.
4. What does your research show about arsenic's connection to cancer?

Our research shows the co-effect of cigarette smoke and arsenic inhalation and how they might affect the lungs. Animals given cigarette smoke in low doses and arsenic in low doses by themselves show no affects; but given together, there were potential changes in the lungs, which could lead to the development of cancer cells.
2. How do people "get" cancer?

Cancer is a multi-step disease. Many things have to happen before renegade cells develop into a tumor. Cancer is also thought to occur over a long time span; tens of years. Numerous molecular sites have to be attacked and numerous things in the cells have to happen in order for cancer to develop. Genetic make-up, diet and health status also determines whether or not you'll develop cancer.
5. Does arsenic in water promote cancer the same way it can through cigarette smoke?

It's interesting that arsenic will cause lung cancer through inhalation or from water ingestion. It's not known exactly what mechanism is used by arsenic to cause cancer. What is known is that both routes of exposure will target the lungs for increased risk of developing lung cancer. The mechanisms that may be involved are again, self-proliferation or increasing the already cancerous cells, or the DNA repair mechanism of cells already damaged.
3. Does arsenic cause cancer?

Arsenic is classified as a human carcinogen, but not a direct-acting carcinogen. It's a co-carcinogen, which means it acts in concert with other carcinogens to produce cancers partly due to self-proliferation or due to affects on DNA repair. Arsenic has been linked to skin, bladder and lung cancers. It's not really known why these particular organs are targets of arsenic. It may be due to the accessibility of arsenic compounds by these organs.

Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center
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Last update: November 10, 2009
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