The IARC Monographs: Updated procedures for modern and transparent evidence synthesis in cancer hazard identification

Abstract

The Monographs produced by the International Agency for Research on Cancer apply rigorous procedures for the scientific review and evaluation of carcinogenic hazards by independent experts. The Preamble to the IARC Monographs, which outlines these procedures, was updated in 2019, following recommendations of a 2018 expert Advisory Group. This article presents the key features of the updated Preamble, a major milestone that will enable IARC to take advantage of recent scientific and procedural advances made during the 12 years since the last Preamble amendments. The updated Preamble formalizes important developments already being pioneered in the Monographs Programme. These developments were taken forward in a clarified and strengthened process for identifying, reviewing, evaluating and integrating evidence to identify causes of human cancer. The advancements adopted include strengthening of systematic review methodologies; greater emphasis on mechanistic evidence, based on key characteristics of carcinogens; greater consideration of quality and informativeness in the critical evaluation of epidemiological studies, including their exposure assessment methods; improved harmonization of evaluation criteria for the different evidence streams; and a single-step process of integrating evidence on cancer in humans, cancer in experimental animals and mechanisms for reaching overall evaluations. In all, the updated Preamble underpins a stronger and more transparent method for the identification of carcinogenic hazards, the essential first step in cancer prevention.

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