Preventable exposures associated with human cancers

J Natl Cancer Inst. 2011 Dec 21;103(24):1827-39. doi: 10.1093/jnci/djr483. Epub 2011 Dec 12.


Information on the causes of cancer at specific sites is important to cancer control planners, cancer researchers, cancer patients, and the general public. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) Monograph series, which has classified human carcinogens for more than 40 years, recently completed a review to provide up-to-date information on the cancer sites associated with more than 100 carcinogenic agents. Based on IARC's review, we listed the cancer sites associated with each agent and then rearranged this information to list the known and suspected causes of cancer at each site. We also summarized the rationale for classifications that were based on mechanistic data. This information, based on the forthcoming IARC Monographs Volume 100, offers insights into the current state-of-the-science of carcinogen identification. Use of mechanistic data to identify carcinogens is increasing, and epidemiological research is identifying additional carcinogens and cancer sites or confirming carcinogenic potential under conditions of lower exposure. Nevertheless, some common human cancers still have few (or no) identified causal agents.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects
  • Carcinogens, Environmental / toxicity*
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Global Health
  • Humans
  • International Agencies
  • Meat Products / adverse effects
  • Neoplasms / chemically induced
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Neoplasms / virology
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Virus Diseases / complications


  • Carcinogens, Environmental