Cocarcinogens and Cocarcinogenesis (with a note on synergistic processes in carcinogenesis)

  • E. Hecker
Part of the Handbuch der allgemeinen Pathologie book series (PATHOLOGIE, volume 6 / 6)


There is a huge number of known carcinogenic factors of assorted origin and nature. These may be divided into solitary carcinogens and cocarcinogens1. From the point of view of environmental hygiene and preventive medicine, solitary carcinogens are carcinogenic factors of “first-order” risk, because chronic exposure to small—or even a single exposure to high—doses of any solitary carcinogen, for example, occupational exposure, may induce neoplasia. Here the toxicologic process is called solitary carcinogenesis. In the majority of cases, neoplasia is probably the result of synergistic action in multifactorial exposures of the host or target tissue to carcinogenic factors, be they solitary carcinogens or cocarcinogens. Here the toxicologic process is called syncarcinogenesis. Exposure of the host or target tissue to cocarcinogens does not per se produce neoplasia. If, however, a submanifestational exposure to a solitary carcinogen is followed by exposure to a cocarcinogen, tumors or cancer will arise. Here the toxicologic process is called cocarcinogenesis. Consequently, in terms of environmental hygiene and preventive medicine, cocarcinogens may be understood to be “second-order” risk factors2.


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1975

Authors and Affiliations

  • E. Hecker
    • 1
  1. 1.Deutsches KrebsforchungszentrumInstitut für BiochemieHeidelbergDeutschland

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