In recent years, chemical cancer risk assessment has faced major challenges: the demand for cancer risk assessment has grown considerably with strict legislation regarding chemical safety, whereas cancer hazard identification has turned increasingly complex due to the rapid development and high publication rate in biomedical sciences. Thus, much of the scientific evidence required for hazard identification is hidden in large collections of biomedical literature. Extensive guidelines have been produced to support cancer risk assessment under these circumstances. We evaluated whether these guidelines support the first, critical step of this task--data and literature gathering--and found that the guidance is vague. We propose ways to improve data and literature gathering for cancer risk assessment and suggest developing a computational literature search and analysis tool dedicated to the task. We describe the first prototype tool we have developed and discuss how it could help to improve the quality, consistency, and effectiveness of cancer risk assessment when developed further. Fully reliable automatic data and literature gathering may not be realistic; the retrieved articles will always need to be examined further by risk assessors. However, our proposal offers a starting point for improved data and literature gathering that can benefit the whole cancer risk assessment process.
Copyright © 2012 SETAC.