Preamble to the IARC Monographs


3. Selection of agents for review

Agents are selected for review on the basis of two main criteria: (a) there is evidence of human exposure and (b) there is some evidence or suspicion of carcinogenicity. Mixed exposures may occur in occupational and environmental settings and as a result of individual and cultural habits (such as tobacco smoking and dietary practices). Chemical analogues and compounds with biological or physical characteristics similar to those of suspected carcinogens may also be considered, even in the absence of data on a possible carcinogenic effect in humans or experimental animals.

The scientific literature is surveyed for published data relevant to an assessment of carcinogenicity. Ad-hoc Advisory Groups convened by IARC in 1984, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1998 and 2003 made recommendations as to which agents should be evaluated in the Monographs series. Recent recommendations are available on the Monographs programme website ( IARC may schedule other agents for review as it becomes aware of new scientific information or as national health agencies identify an urgent public health need related to cancer.

As significant new data become available on an agent for which a Monograph exists, a re-evaluation may be made at a subsequent meeting, and a new Monograph published. In some cases it may be appropriate to review only the data published since a prior evaluation. This can be useful for updating a database, reviewing new data to resolve a previously open question or identifying new tumour sites associated with a carcinogenic agent. Major changes in an evaluation (e.g. a new classification in Group 1 or a determination that a mechanism does not operate in humans, see Part B, Section 6) are more appropriately addressed by a full review. 

Posted 23 January 2006