“Xeroderma Pigmentosum” - Why Carcinogens Act In A Mutagenic Manner?

Updated: Dec 26, 2020

A carcinogen is something that can cause you to have cancer, such as a substance in the air or a chemical in foods and drinks.(2) Almost all carcinogens are mutagens (and act in a mutagenic manner) but not all mutagens are carcinogens. Not all mutations cause cancer. There are health determinants and environmental factors that can influence chances of an absorbed mutagen becoming cancerous.(2) Xeroderma pigmentosum is a mutagen and a person’s chances of getting cancer from this depends on many things, like how much you've been exposed a toxic chemical, also your genes also play a role. (2)

People who have Xeroderma pigmentosum have to sufficiently protect their skin from absorbing UV rays from the sun because their genes, specifically the genes that are involved in repairing damaged DNA, have mutated.(1) DNA can be damaged by UV rays from the sun and by other toxic chemicals (ex: Cigarette smoke).(1) Normally, cells can fix DNA damage before it causes any harm but the DNA of people with xeroderma pigmentosum don’t repair normally. So as abnormalities mutate in a person’s DNA it can result in cells ‘crashing’ (failing to function) or the cells eventually become cancerous or die.(1)

This doesn’t mean that Xeroderma Pigmentosum will, in all cases, become cancerous. It depends on the mutation of a specific gene, a person’s cell function/failure and the accumulation of unrepaired damage to DNA. Individuals who are diagnosed with Xeroderma Pigmentosum and who smoke cigarettes have a drastically increased risk of lung cancer.(1) Severe symptoms of xeroderma pigmentosum result from an accumulation of unrepaired damage to DNA.(1) Measures that a person may take to prevent their skin from being exposed to the sun are not limited to wearing protective clothing, applying sunscreen correctly, applying (prescribed) retinoid creams and putting on dark sunglasses when out in the sun. (3)


  1. Xeroderma pigmentosum - Genetics Home Reference - NIH. (2019, February 19). Retrieved from https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/xeroderma-pigmentosum#resources

  1. 10 Common Carcinogens You Should Know About. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/cancer/know-common-carcinogens#1

  1. Griffiths AJF, Miller JH, Suzuki DT, et al. An Introduction to Genetic Analysis. 7th edition. New York: W. H. Freeman; 2000. Relation between mutagens and carcinogens. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK21788/

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