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Causality in the Sciences$
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Phyllis McKay Illari, Federica Russo, and Jon Williamson

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199574131

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199574131.001.0001

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The IARC and mechanistic evidence

The IARC and mechanistic evidence

Chapter:
(p.91) 5 The IARC and mechanistic evidence
Source:
Causality in the Sciences
Author(s):

Bert Leuridan

Erik Weber

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199574131.003.0005

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is an organization which seeks to identify the causes of human cancer. For each agent, such as betel quid or Human Papillomaviruses, they review the available evidence deriving from epidemiological studies, animal experiments and information about mechanisms (and other data). The evidence of the different groups is combined such that an overall assessment of the carcinogenicity of the agent in question is obtained. This chapter critically reviews the IARC's carcinogenicity evaluations. First it shows that serious objections can be raised against their criteria and procedures — more specifically regarding the role of mechanistic knowledge in establishing causal claims. The chapter's arguments are based on the problem of confounders, of the assessment of the temporal stability of carcinogenic relations, and of the extrapolation from animal experiments. Then the chapter addresses a very important question, viz. how we should treat the carcinogenicity evaluations that were based on the current procedures. After showing that this question is important, the chapter argues that an overall dismissal of the current evaluations would be too radical. Instead, the chapter argues in favour of a stepwise re‐evaluation of the current findings.

Keywords:   IARC, causality, cancer, mechanistic evidence

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