Preamble to the IARC Monographs


6. Working procedures

A separate Working Group is responsible for developing each volume of Monographs. A volume contains one or more Monographs, which can cover either a single agent or several related agents. Approximately one year in advance of the meeting of a Working Group, the agents to be reviewed are announced on the Monographs programme website ( and participants are selected by IARC staff in consultation with other experts. Subsequently, relevant biological and epidemiological data are collected by IARC from recognized sources of information on carcinogenesis, including data storage and retrieval systems such as PubMed. Meeting participants who are asked to prepare preliminary working papers for specific sections are expected to supplement the IARC literature searches with their own searches.

Industrial associations, labour unions and other knowledgeable organizations may be asked to provide input to the sections on production and use, although this involvement is not required as a general rule. Information on production and trade is obtained from governmental, trade and market research publications and, in some cases, by direct contact with industries. Separate production data on some agents may not be available for a variety of reasons (e.g. not collected or made public in all producing countries, production is small). Information on uses may be obtained from published sources but is often complemented by direct contact with manufacturers. Efforts are made to supplement this information with data from other national and international sources.

Six months before the meeting, the material obtained is sent to meeting participants to prepare preliminary working papers. The working papers are compiled by IARC staff and sent, prior to the meeting, to Working Group Members and Invited Specialists for review.

The Working Group meets at IARC for seven to eight days to discuss and finalize the texts and to formulate the evaluations. The objectives of the meeting are peer review and consensus. During the first few days, four subgroups (covering exposure data, cancer in humans, cancer in experimental animals, and mechanistic and other relevant data) review the working papers, develop a joint subgroup draft and write summaries. Care is taken to ensure that each study summary is written or reviewed by someone not associated with the study being considered. During the last few days, the Working Group meets in plenary session to review the subgroup drafts and develop the evaluations. As a result, the entire volume is the joint product of the Working Group, and there are no individually authored sections.

IARC Working Groups strive to achieve a consensus evaluation. Consensus reflects broad agreement among Working Group Members, but not necessarily unanimity. The chair may elect to poll Working Group Members to determine the diversity of scientific opinion on issues where consensus is not readily apparent.

After the meeting, the master copy is verified by consulting the original literature, edited and prepared for publication. The aim is to publish the volume within six months of the Working Group meeting. A summary of the outcome is available on the Monographs programme website soon after the meeting.

Posted 23 January 2006, updated 4 September 2015