Evidence continues to accumulate that aneuploidy, an imbalance in the number of chromosomes, is responsible for the characteristic phenotypes of cancer, including the abnormal cellular size and morphology of cancer cells, the appearance of tumour-associated antigens, as well as the high levels of membrane-bound and secreted proteins responsible for invasiveness and loss of contact inhibition. Aneuploidy has also been demonstrated to be the self-perpetuating source of the karyotypic instability of cancer cells. Here it is shown that the auto-catalysed progression of aneuploidy explains the kinetics of the finite lifetime of diploid cells in culture, the time course of the appearance of papillomas and carcinomas in benzo[a]pyrene-treated mice, and the age-dependence of human cancers. Modelling studies indicate that the ease of spontaneous transformation of mouse cells in culture may be due to a chaotic progression of aneuploidy. Conversely, the strong preference towards senescence and resistance to transformation of human cells in culture may be the result of a non-chaotic progression of aneuploidy. Finally, a method is proposed for quantifying the aneuploidogenic potencies of carcinogens.

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