Article open access publication

IARC Monographs: 40 Years of Evaluating Carcinogenic Hazards to Humans

Environmental Health Perspectives, Environmental Health Perspectives, ISSN 1542-4359

Volume 123, 6, 2015

DOI:10.1289/ehp.1409149, Dimensions: pub.1031813241, PMC: PMC4455595, PMID: 25712798,


Pearce, Neil (1) (2)
Pukkala, Eero (66) (67)
Shy, Carl (25)
Vena, John (89)
Weiderpass, Elisabete (6) (35) (94) (95)



  1. (1) E-mail Address: [email protected]
  2. (2) London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, grid.8991.9
  3. (3) National Cancer Institute, grid.48336.3a
  4. (4) Imperial College London, grid.7445.2
  5. (5) Leibniz Institute for Prevention Research and Epidemiology - BIPS, grid.418465.a
  6. (6) Cancer Registry of Norway, grid.418941.1
  7. (7) Center for Research in Environmental Epidemiology, grid.417617.2
  8. (8) University of Sydney, grid.1013.3
  9. (9) Harvard University, grid.38142.3c
  10. (10) National Center for Toxicological Research, grid.483504.e
  11. (11) Fondazione IRCCS Ca' Granda Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico, grid.414818.0
  12. (12) NCI, NIH, DHHS, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, USA
  13. (13) Washington University in St. Louis, grid.4367.6
  14. (14) Division of the National Toxicology Program, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), NIH, DHHS, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, USA
  15. (15) KP Cantor Environmental LLC, Silver Spring, Maryland, USA
  16. (16) CREAL, IMIM, and CIBERESP, Barcelona, Spain
  17. (17) Institute of Occupational Medicine, grid.410343.1
  18. (18) University of Cagliari, grid.7763.5
  19. (19) University of Southampton, grid.5491.9
  20. (20) Sapienza University of Rome, grid.7841.a
  21. (21) Cancer Care Ontario, grid.419887.b
  22. (22) Duke University Hospital, grid.189509.c
  23. (23) Massey University, grid.148374.d
  24. (24) University of California, Berkeley, grid.47840.3f
  25. (25) University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, grid.10698.36
  26. (26) University of Washington, grid.34477.33
  27. (27) University of Exeter, grid.8391.3
  28. (28) Louisiana State University, grid.64337.35
  29. (29) Department of Epidemiology, Lazio Regional Health Service, Rome, Italy
  30. (30) University of Bremen, grid.7704.4
  31. (31) Curtin University, grid.1032.0
  32. (32) University of Montreal, grid.14848.31
  33. (33) Population-based Epidemiological Cohorts Unit, Inserm UMS 011, Villejuif, France
  34. (34) University of Southern Denmark, grid.10825.3e, SDU
  35. (35) Karolinska Institute, grid.4714.6
  36. (36) Danish Cancer Society, grid.417390.8
  37. (37) Antoni van Leeuwenhoek Hospital, grid.430814.a
  38. (38) Utrecht University, grid.5477.1
  39. (39) German Cancer Research Center, grid.7497.d
  40. (40) Epidemiology and Biostatistics Sorbonne Paris Cite Center (CRESS), INSERM, UMR 1153, Epidemiology of Childhood and Adolescent Cancers Research Group (EPICEA), Paris Descartes University, F-75015, Paris, France
  41. (41) University of California, Davis, grid.27860.3b
  42. (42) North Carolina State University, grid.40803.3f
  43. (43) NIEHS, NIH, DHHS, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, USA
  44. (44) Umeå University, grid.12650.30
  45. (45) Seoul National University, grid.31501.36
  46. (46) Dartmouth College, grid.254880.3
  47. (47) National Institute of Occupational Health, grid.416876.a
  48. (48) CREAL, IMIM, and CIBERESP, Barcelona, Spain; National School of Public Health, Athens Greece
  49. (49) University of Massachusetts Lowell, grid.225262.3
  50. (50) Université de Caen Basse-Normandie, grid.412043.0
  51. (51) University of Cincinnati, grid.24827.3b
  52. (52) University of Iowa, grid.214572.7
  53. (53) University of Copenhagen, grid.5254.6, KU
  54. (54) Australian National University, grid.1001.0
  55. (55) Deceased
  56. (56) Public Health Ontario, grid.415400.4
  57. (57) University of Toronto, grid.17063.33
  58. (58) World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe, European Centre for Environment and Health, Bonn, Germany
  59. (59) Regional Mesothelioma Register, National Health Service, Local Health Authority, Padova, Italy
  60. (60) University of Turin, grid.7605.4
  61. (61) Queens College, CUNY, grid.262273.0
  62. (62) Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique, grid.418084.1
  63. (63) Columbia University, grid.21729.3f
  64. (64) Johns Hopkins University, grid.21107.35
  65. (65) IMIM, CIBERESP, and School of Medicine, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain
  66. (66) Finnish Cancer Registry, grid.424339.b
  67. (67) Tampere University, grid.502801.e
  68. (68) University of Guelph, grid.34429.38
  69. (69) University of California, Los Angeles, grid.19006.3e
  70. (70) Department of Pediatric Oncology, Emma Children’s Hospital/Academic Medical Center, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
  71. (71) Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, grid.265436.0
  72. (72) Texas A&M University, grid.264756.4
  73. (73) University of Southern California, grid.42505.36
  74. (74) Epidemiology Branch, NIEHS, NIH, DHHS, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, USA
  75. (75) Institut d'Investigació Biomédica de Bellvitge, grid.418284.3
  76. (76) Italian Association for Cancer Research, grid.429138.5
  77. (77) University of Padua, grid.5608.b
  78. (78) University of British Columbia, grid.17091.3e
  79. (79) Baylor College of Medicine, grid.39382.33
  80. (80) Colorado State University, grid.47894.36
  81. (81) University of Illinois at Chicago, grid.185648.6
  82. (82) Emory University, grid.189967.8
  83. (83) Exposure Assessment Applications LLC, Arlington, Virginia, USA
  84. (84) Cancer Control Program, South East Sydney Public Health Unit, Randwick, New South Wales, Australia
  85. (85) Stewart Exposure Assessments LLC, Arlington, Virginia, USA
  86. (86) The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, grid.267308.8
  87. (87) Piedmont Reference Center for Epidemiology and Cancer Prevention, grid.420240.0
  88. (88) Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, grid.6975.d
  89. (89) Medical University of South Carolina, grid.259828.c
  90. (90) Federal University of Pelotas, grid.411221.5
  91. (91) American Cancer Society, grid.422418.9
  92. (92) Biostatistics and Computational Biology Branch, NIEHS, NIH, DHHS, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, USA
  93. (93) City Of Hope National Medical Center, grid.410425.6
  94. (94) Folkhälsans Forskningscentrum, grid.428673.c
  95. (95) The Arctic University of Norway, grid.10919.30
  96. (96) Shelia Zahm Consulting, Hermon, Maine, USA


BACKGROUND: Recently, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) Programme for the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans has been criticized for several of its evaluations, and also for the approach used to perform these evaluations. Some critics have claimed that failures of IARC Working Groups to recognize study weaknesses and biases of Working Group members have led to inappropriate classification of a number of agents as carcinogenic to humans. OBJECTIVES: The authors of this Commentary are scientists from various disciplines relevant to the identification and hazard evaluation of human carcinogens. We examined criticisms of the IARC classification process to determine the validity of these concerns. Here, we present the results of that examination, review the history of IARC evaluations, and describe how the IARC evaluations are performed. DISCUSSION: We concluded that these recent criticisms are unconvincing. The procedures employed by IARC to assemble Working Groups of scientists from the various disciplines and the techniques followed to review the literature and perform hazard assessment of various agents provide a balanced evaluation and an appropriate indication of the weight of the evidence. Some disagreement by individual scientists to some evaluations is not evidence of process failure. The review process has been modified over time and will undoubtedly be altered in the future to improve the process. Any process can in theory be improved, and we would support continued review and improvement of the IARC processes. This does not mean, however, that the current procedures are flawed. CONCLUSIONS: The IARC Monographs have made, and continue to make, major contributions to the scientific underpinning for societal actions to improve the public's health.


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Times Cited: 44

Field Citation Ratio (FCR): 12.55

Relative Citation ratio (RCR): 2.01

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Green, Published