A mutagen is a substance or agent that causes an increase in the rate of change in genes - i.e., something that causes mutations on a cellular level.

These mutations can be passed along as the cell reproduces, sometimes beginning a process which may lead to the production of defective cells, or cancerous growth.

Mutagenic agents include chemicals, viruses, ultraviolet light, and radiation.

A mutagen is not the same thing as a carcinogen, though they're close. A carcinogen causes cancer - a mutagen may cause cancer.

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