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In genetics, genotoxicity describes a deleterious action on a cell's genetic material affecting its integrity. This includes both certain chemical compounds and certain types of radiation. Genotoxic substances are all those with affinity to interact with DNA - which is not proof of their dangerousness to humans, but does render them potentially mutagenic or cancerogenic.
Typical genotoxins like aromatic amines are believed to cause mutations because they are nucleophilic and form strong covalent bonds with DNA resulting with the formation of Aromatic Amine-DNA adducts, preventing accurate replication.
Genotoxins affecting sperm and eggs can pass genetic changes down to descendants who have never been exposed to the genotoxin.
The term "genotoxic" started being more commonly used after the publication by Lars Ehrenberg et al., in 1973, of "The relation of cancer induction and genetic damage. In: Evalutaion of Genetic Risks of Environmental Chemicals. Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences" - on the relation between genetic damage and cancer.
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