Concepts of cell death and application to carcinogenesis

Toxicol Pathol. 1997 Jan-Feb;25(1):89-93. doi: 10.1177/019262339702500117.


The occurrence of cell death as a physiologic event in multicellular organisms has been known for more than 150 yr. In 1972, the term apoptosis was introduced on morphological grounds. The hypothesis that all kinds of cell death can be categorized as either "apoptotic" or "necrotic" is not generally confirmed. Cells seem to use different pathways for suicide, as reflected by different morphology: condensation-prominent, Type I or apoptosis; autophagy-prominent, Type II; and so forth. Type II cell death was found in mammary tissue and mammary tumor cells and in a variety of other organs. For unequivocal identification of the various types of cell death, morphological, biochemical, and functional criteria may be used in combination. During tumor development in various organs of animals and humans, not only rates of cell proliferation but also rates of cell death may increase with increasing malignancy. Morphological and functional criteria (antipromotion, withdrawal of survival factors) indicate that cell death in tumors frequently is of an active nature.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Carcinogens / pharmacology*
  • Carcinogens / toxicity*
  • Cell Death / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Necrosis
  • Neoplasms / chemically induced*
  • Neoplasms, Experimental / chemically induced*


  • Carcinogens