To fulfill their role in host-defense, granulocytes secrete chemically reactive oxidants, radicals, and electrophilic mediators. While this is an effective way to eradicate pathogenic microbes or parasites, it inevitably exposes epithelium and connective tissue to certain endogenous genotoxic agents. In ordinary circumstances, cells have adequate mechanisms to reduce the genotoxic burden imposed by these agents to a negligible level. However, inflammation persisting for a decade eventually elevates the risk of cancer sufficiently that it is discernible in case control epidemiological studies. Advances in our understanding of tumor suppressors and inflammatory mediators offer an opportunity to assess the molecular and cellular models used to guide laboratory investigations of this phenomenon. Disappointing results from recent clinical trials with anti-oxidant interventions raise questions about the risks from specific endogenous agents such as hydrogen peroxide and oxy radicals. Simultaneously, the results from the anti-oxidant trials draw attention to an alternate hypothesis, favoring epigenetic inactivation of key tumor suppressors, such as p53, and the consequent liability this places on genomic integrity.