Historical Perspectives

Carcinogenic chemicals and irradiation (ionizing and ultraviolet) are known to affect DNA and to be mutagenic under certain conditions. Thus, one of the long-standing theories of car-cinogenesis is that cancer is caused by a genetic mutation; however, it is now known that epige-netic mechanisms are also involved.

Evidence that chemicals can induce cancer in humans has been accumulating since the sixteenth century (reviewed in Reference 7). In 1567, Paracelsus described a ''wasting disease of miners'' and proposed that exposure to something in the mined ores caused the condition. A similar condition was described in 1926 in Saxony and was later identified as the ''lung cancer of the Schneeberg mines.'' It was realized much later that the cause of this was probably exposure to radon. Nevertheless, Paraclesus could probably be called ''the father of occupational carcinogenesis." It is Bernadini Ramazzini, however, who published a systematic account of work-related diseases in 1700, who is more logically considered the founder of occupational medicine.7

Later in the eighteenth century, the first direct observation associating chemicals was made by John Hill, who in 1761 noted that nasal cancer occurred in people who used snuff excessively. In 1775, Percival Pott reported a high incidence of scrotal skin cancer among men who had spent their childhood as chimney sweeps. One hundred years later, von Volkman, in Germany, and Bell, in Scotland, observed skin cancer in workers whose skin was in continuous contact with tar and paraffin oils, which we now know contain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. In 1895, Rehn

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Hereditary

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Tumor

Nonhereditary

Tumor

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