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A clastogen is a substance that cause breaks in chromosomes that result in the gain, loss, or rearrangements of chromosomal segments. Clastogens can also cause sister chromatid exchanges, the interchanges and reunions that occur during the processes of mitosis or meiosis (DNA replication).
Clastogens break and/or damage your DNA, the code that determines the function of the cells in your body. If a damaged cell dies, then there may be no further health effect. But if the altered/damaged cell's DNA still functions and is replicated (reproduced; passed on), this may lead to mutagenesis or carcinogenesis. While all gene mutations generally involve clastogenesis, the reverse is not always true - not all clastogens produce gene mutations.
Examples of known human clastogens include certain anti-cancer drugs, benzene, ethylene oxide and inorganic arsenic. X-ray and ultraviolet radiation can also be considered clastogens.
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Obviously, any possible damage to your DNA is a Bad Thing. Treat all clastogens with the same respect you would afford a carcinogenic substance. Use proper engineering controls such as a fume hood whenever possible and always use proper personal protective equipment such as gloves or respiratory protection.
See also: carcinogen, cytotoxin, mutagen.
Additional definitions from Google and OneLook.
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