IARC monographs: 40 years of evaluating carcinogenic hazards to humans

Neil Pearce*, Aaron Blair, Paolo Vineis, Wolfgang Ahrens, Aage Andersen, Josep M. Anto, Bruce K. Armstrong, Andrea A. Baccarelli, Frederick A. Beland, Amy Berrington, Pier Alberto Bertazzi, Linda S. Birnbaum, Ross C. Brownson, John R. Bucher, Kenneth P. Cantor, Elisabeth Cardis, John W. Cherrie, David C. Christiani, Pierluigi Cocco, David CoggonPietro Comba, Paul A. Demers, John M. Dement, Jeroen Douwes, Ellen A. Eisen, Lawrence S. Engel, Richard A. Fenske, Lora E. Fleming, Tony Fletcher, Elizabeth Fontham, Francesco Forastiere, Rainer Frentzel-Beyme, Lin Fritschi, Michel Gerin, Marcel Goldberg, Philippe Grandjean, Tom K. Grimsrud, Per Gustavsson, Andy Haines, Patricia Hartge, Johnni Hansen, Michael Hauptmann, Dick Heederik, Kari Hemminki, Denis Hemon, Irva Hertz-Picciotto, Jane A. Hoppin, James Huff, Bengt Jarvholm, Daehee Kang, Margaret R. Karagas, Kristina Kjaerheim, Helge Kjuus, Manolis Kogevinas, David Kriebel, Petter Kristensen, Hans Kromhout, Francine Laden, Pierre Lebailly, Grace Lemasters, Jay H. Lubin, Charles F. Lynch, Elsebeth Lynge, Andreat Mannetje, Anthony J. McMichael, John R. McLaughlin, Loraine Marrett, Marco Martuzzi, James A. Merchant, Enzo Merler, Franco Merletti, Anthony Miller, Franklin E. Mirer, Richard Monson, Karl Cristian Nordby, Andrew F. Olshan, Marie Elise Parent, Frederica P. Perera, Melissa J. Perry, Angela Cecilia Pesatori, Roberta Pirastu, Miquel Porta, Eero Pukkala, Carol Rice, David B. Richardson, Leonard Ritter, Beate Ritz, Cecile M. Ronckers, Lesley Rushton, Jennifer A. Rusiecki, Ivan Rusyn, Jonathan M. Samet, Dale P. Sandler, Silvia de Sanjose, Eva Schernhammer, Adele Seniori Costantini, Noah Seixas, Carl Shy, Jack Siemiatycki, Debra T. Silverman, Lorenzo Simonato, Allan H. Smith, Martyn T. Smith, John J. Spinelli, Margaret R. Spitz, Lorann Stallones, Leslie T. Stayner, Kyle Steenland, Mark Stenzel, Bernard W. Stewart, Patricia A. Stewart, Elaine Symanski, Benedetto Terracini, Paige E. Tolbert, Harri Vainio, John Vena, Roel Vermeulen, Cesar G. Victora, Elizabeth M. Ward, Clarice R. Weinberg, Dennis Weisenburger, Catharina Wesseling, Elisabete Weiderpass, Shelia Hoar Zahm

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debate

90 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)507-514
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Health Perspectives
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2015
Externally publishedYes


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