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  1. A list of known human carcinogens by The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) – a part of the World Health Organization (WHO) – comes in handy. Here are some of the most common carcinogens, and how to avoid them. When analyzing carcinogenetic foods or toxins, WHO uses five groups for classification:

    • The Problem
    • What Causes Cancer?
    • Risk Factors For Cancers
    • Reducing The Cancer Burden
    • Preventing Cancer
    • Early Detection
    • Treatment
    • Palliative Care
    • Who Response
    • References

    Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for nearly 10 million deaths in 2020 (1). The most common in 2020 (in terms of new cases of cancer) were: 1. breast (2.26 million cases); 2. lung (2.21 million cases); 3. colon and rectum (1.93 million cases); 4. prostate (1.41 million cases); 5. skin (non-melanoma) (1.20 million cases); and 6. stomach (1.09 million cases). The most common causes of cancer death in 2020 were: 1. lung (1.80 million deaths); 2. colon and rectum (935 000 deaths); 3. liver (830 000 deaths); 4. stomach (769 000 deaths); and 5. breast (685 000 deaths).

    Cancer arises from the transformation of normal cells into tumour cells in a multi-stage process that generally progresses from a pre-cancerous lesion to a malignant tumour. These changes are the result of the interaction between a person's genetic factors and three categories of external agents, including: 1. physical carcinogens, such as ultraviolet and ionizing radiation; 2. chemical carcinogens, such as asbestos, components of tobacco smoke, aflatoxin (a food contaminant), and arsenic (a drinking water contaminant); and 3. biological carcinogens, such as infections from certain viruses, bacteria, or parasites. WHO, through its cancer research agency, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), maintains a classification of cancer-causing agents. The incidence of cancer rises dramatically with age, most likely due to a build-up of risks for specific cancers that increase with age. The overall risk accumulation is combined with the tendency for cellular repair mechanis...

    Tobacco use, alcohol use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and air pollution are risk factors for cancer (and other noncommunicable diseases). Some chronic infections are risk factors for cancer; this is a particular issue in low- and middle-income countries. Approximately 13% of cancers diagnosed in 2018 globally were attributed to carcinogenic infections, including Helicobacter pylori, human papillomavirus (HPV), hepatitis B virus, hepatitis C virus, and Epstein-Barr virus (3). Hepatitis B and C viruses and some types of HPV increase the risk for liver and cervical cancer, respectively. Infection with HIV substantially increases the risk of cancers such as cervical cancer.

    Between 30 and 50% of cancers can currently be prevented by avoiding risk factors and implementing existing evidence-based prevention strategies. The cancer burden can also be reduced through early detection of cancer and appropriate treatment and care of patients who develop cancer. Many cancers have a high chance of cure if diagnosed early and treated appropriately.

    Cancer risk can be reduced by: 1. not using tobacco; 2. maintaining a healthy body weight; 3. eating a healthy diet, including fruit and vegetables; 4. doing physical activity on a regular basis; 5. avoiding harmful use of alcohol; 6. getting vaccinated against HPV and hepatitis B if you belong to a group for which vaccination is recommended; 7. avoiding ultraviolet radiation (which primarily results from exposure to the sun and artificial tanning devices); 8. ensuring safe and appropriate use of radiation in health care (for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes); 9. minimizing occupational exposure to ionizing radiation; and 10. reducing exposure to outdoor air pollution and indoor air pollution, including radon (a radioactive gas produced from the natural decay of uranium, which can accumulate in buildings — homes, schools and workplaces).

    Cancer mortality can be reduced if cases are detected and treated early. There are two components of early detection:

    A correct cancer diagnosis is essential for appropriate and effective treatment because every cancer type requires a specific treatment regimen. Treatment usually includes radiotherapy, chemotherapy and/or surgery. Determining the goals of treatment is an important first step. The primary goal is generally to cure cancer or to considerably prolong life. Improving the patient's quality of life is also an important goal. This can be achieved by support for the patient’s physical, psychosocial and spiritual well-being and palliative care in terminal stages of cancer. Some of the most common cancer types, such as breast cancer, cervical cancer, oral cancer, and colorectal cancer, have high cure rates when detected early and treated according to best practices. Some cancer types, such as testicular seminoma and different types of leukaemia and lymphoma in children, also have high cure rates if appropriate treatment is provided, even when cancerous cells are present in other areas of the...

    Palliative care is treatment to relieve, rather than cure, symptoms caused by cancer and to improve the quality of life of patients and their families. Palliative care can help people live more comfortably. It is particularly needed in places with a high proportion of patients in advanced stages of cancer where there is little chance of cure. Relief from physical, psychosocial, and spiritual problems through palliative care is possible for more than 90% of patients with advanced stages of cancer. Effective public health strategies, comprising community- and home-based care, are essential to provide pain relief and palliative care for patients and their families.

    In 2017, the World Health Assembly passed the Resolution Cancer prevention and control in the context of an integrated approach (WHA70.12) that urges governments and WHO to accelerate action to achieve the targets specified in the Global Action Plan for the prevention and control of NCDs 2013-2020and the 2030 UN Agenda for Sustainable Development to reduce premature mortality from cancer. WHO and IARC collaborate with other UN organizations and partners to: 1. increase political commitment for cancer prevention and control; 2. coordinate and conduct research on the causes of human cancer and the mechanisms of carcinogenesis; 3. monitor the cancer burden (as part of the work of the Global Initiative on Cancer Registries); 4. identify “best buys” and other cost-effective, priority strategies for cancer prevention and control; 5. develop standards and tools to guide the planning and implementation of interventions for prevention, early diagnosis, screening, treatment and palliative and...

    (1) Ferlay J, Ervik M, Lam F, Colombet M, Mery L, Piñeros M, et al. Global Cancer Observatory: Cancer Today. Lyon: International Agency for Research on Cancer; 2020 (, accessed February 2021). (2) GBD results tool. Seattle (WA): Institute for Health Metrics, University of Washington; 2020 (, accessed February 2021). (3) de Martel C, Georges D, Bray F, Ferlay J, Clifford GM. Global burden of cancer attributable to infections in 2018: a worldwide incidence analysis. Lancet Glob Health. 2020;8(2):e180-e190. (4) Assessing national capacity for the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases: report of the 2019 global survey. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2020. (5) Wild CP, Weiderpass E, Stewart BW, editors. World Cancer Report: Cancer Research for Cancer Prevention. Lyon: International Agency for Research on Cancer; 2020. (6) Global Initiative for Cancer Registry Development. Lyon: International Agency for R...

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  3. as exposure data for carcinogens in different industries (based on European data). The relative risk for cancer for each carcinogen is estimated from international literature. This information is combined to estimate the impact in each country of occupational exposures to carcinogens. This figure is termed the population

    • What You Should Know
    • Known Human Carcinogens
    • Probable Carcinogens
    The IARC and NTP act independently. Many known or suspected carcinogens appear on both organization’s lists; however, if a substance or exposure is only on one agency’s list, this it does not neces...
    These lists are alphabetical, but many of the substances and exposures here can go by different names.This can make it hard to find a particular substance on one or both of these lists.
    These lists include only those agents that have been evaluated by the agencies. These agencies tend to focus on substances and exposures most likely to cause cancer, but there are many others that...
    These lists include agents that have been classified as known and probable human carcinogens. The lists do not include substances that have been classified as possible carcinogens, for which the ev...

    International Agency for Research on Cancer Group 1: Carcinogenic to humans

    Learn more about the topics in this list in the IARC monographs at 1. Acetaldehyde (from consuming alcoholic beverages) 2. Acheson process, occupational exposure associated with 3. Acid mists, strong inorganic 4. Aflatoxins 5. Alcoholic beverages 6. Aluminum production 7. 4-Aminobiphenyl 8. Areca nut 9. Aristolochic acid (and plants containing it) 10. Arsenic and inorganic arsenic compounds 11. Asbestos (all forms) and mineral su...

    National Toxicology Program 14th Report on Carcinogens “Known to be human carcinogens”

    Learn more about the topics in this list in the NTP’s Report on Carcinogensat 1. Aflatoxins 2. Alcoholic beverage consumption 3. 4-Aminobiphenyl 4. Analgesic mixtures containing phenacetin 5. Aristolochic acids 6. Arsenic and inorganic arsenic compounds 7. Asbestos 8. Azathioprine 9. Benzene 10. Benzidine 11. Beryllium and beryllium compounds 12. Bis(chloromethyl) ether and technical-grade chloromethyl methyl ether 13. 1,3-Butadiene 14. 1,...

    International Agency for Research on Cancer Group 2A: Probably carcinogenic to humans

    Learn more about the topics in this list in the IARC monographs at 1. Acrylamide 2. Adriamycin (doxorubicin) 3. Androgenic (anabolic) steroids 4. Art glass, glass containers, and press ware (manufacture of) 5. Azacitidine 6. Biomass fuel (primarily wood), emissions from household combustion 7. Bitumens, occupational exposure to oxidized bitumens and their emissions during roofing 8. Bischloroethyl nitrosourea (BCNU), also known a...

    National Toxicology Program 14th Report on Carcinogens “Reasonably anticipated to be human carcinogens”

    Learn more about the topics in this list in the NTP’s Report on Carcinogensat 1. Acetaldehyde 2. 2-Acetylaminofluorene 3. Acrylamide 4. Acrylonitrile 5. Adriamycin (doxorubicin hydrochloride) 6. 2-Aminoanthraquinone 7. o-Aminoazotoluene 8. 1-Amino-2,4-dibromoanthraquinone 9. 1-Amino-2-methylanthraquinone 10. 2-Amino-3,4-dimethylimidazo[4,5-f]quinoline (MeIQ) 11. 2-Amino-3,8-dimethylimidazo[4,5-f]quinoxaline (MeIQx) 12. 2-Amino-3-methylimid...

  4. Two organizations—the National Toxicology Program (NTP), an interagency program of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the cancer agency of the World Health Organization—have developed lists of substances that, based on the available scientific evidence, are ...

  5. IARC Monographs on the Identification of Carcinogenic Hazards to Humans. Donate now. News