Q. What’s the difference between a cancer hazard and a cancer risk?
A. A substance is considered a cancer hazard if it can potentially cause the disease under any circumstance. A cancer risk is the likelihood that a hazard will cause cancer. Determining risk requires consideration of whether, how and how much a person is exposed to a substance. Learn more ►
Q. What is IARC?
A. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) was established in 1965 by a resolution of the World Health Organization. It is headquartered in Lyon, France, and its objective is “to promote international collaboration in cancer research.” Learn more ►
Q. Does IARC evaluate Hazard or Risk?
A. IARC only evaluates cancer hazards. It does not attempt to evaluate and determine cancer risk. Therefore, IARC’s statements are of little value to policymakers, public health professionals or consumers since they do not relate to real world circumstances. Learn more ►
Q. Is IARC part of the World Health Organization and United Nations?
A. IARC is loosely affiliated with the World Health Organization (WHO) of the United Nations (UN). However, it is a functionally independent agency and is governed by its own governing bodies: the IARC Governing Council (GC) and the IARC Scientific Council (SC). Learn More ►
Q. How is IARC funded?
A. IARC activities are not funded by WHO, but by regular budget contributions paid by its 25 Participating States. Approximately one-third of IARC’s budget comes from competitive grants. Major funding sources include the European Commission, the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), the World Cancer Research Fund International, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and other charitable and governmental sources.
Q. Does the United States provide funding for IARC?
A. Yes, U.S. taxpayer dollars fund IARC. NIH is the largest financial backer of IARC Monographs, funding at least two Monographs every year through both the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). IARC received $40 million from NIH from 1992-2016.
Q. What type of work does IARC do?
A. IARC is best known for its series of Monographs that examine the carcinogenicity of various chemicals, mixtures, activities and agents. The IARC Monographs categorize environmental factors, including chemicals, complex mixtures, occupational exposures, physical agents, biological agents, and lifestyle factors that might pose a potential cancer hazard under some set of circumstances.
Q. Does the IARC Monograph Program conduct original research?
A. No. IARC Monographs draw from existing research on the carcinogenicity of agents and chemicals.
Q. If IARC labels something as carcinogenic, should I stop using it?
A. IARC only evaluates hazard, but does not consider the likelihood or risk of someone actually getting cancer from using or consuming a certain substance. Therefore, IARC’s classifications don’t provide real-world guidance for consumers.
For example, IARC has assessed nearly 1,000 substances and activities and found only one was “probably not likely” to cause cancer. IARC includes many common substances on its list of carcinogens, including hot beverages, coffee, read meat, pickled vegetables, and cell phones.
Q. Does the broader scientific community agree with IARC’s assessments?
A. No. Many of IARC’s assessments have been widely criticized by scientific and academic communities for their lack of transparency and integrity, and for causing public confusion. Many have also raised concerns about potential biases and conflicts of interest among IARC scientists. See what scientists are saying about IARC.
Q. Is IARC affiliated with the Ramazzini Institute?
A. IARC is not formally affiliated with the Ramazzini Institute, which is located in Bologna, Italy. However, the two research organizations often review the exact same substances and there is significant overlap between leading IARC and Ramazzini scientists – including IARC Monograph section head, Kurt Straif.
Q. Isn’t all cancer research funding good?
A. It is necessary and important to fund cancer research. However, many leading experts believe that funding and resources should be prioritized towards studies that focus on new research and risk assessments, versus IARC’s hazard assessments that often lead to public confusion while providing little useful guidance.