Human Health

Carcinogen

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Unmilled mineral asbstos. Source: University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Carcinogen

A carcinogen is a substance or other biological stressor that is involved directly in the causation of cancer. Carcinogens may act singly or in combination.  Asbestos, for example, may act as a carcinogen.

According to the U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP), such stressors as radiologic agents, chemical substances, or exposure circumstances are listed as either "known to be a human carcinogen," or "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen."

The category "known to be a human carcinogen" is reserved for those substances for which there is sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity from studies in humans that indicates a causal relationship between exposure to the agent, substance, or mixture and human cancer."

The second category, "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen" includes those substances for which there is limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans and/or sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals.

Significantly, conclusions regarding carcinogenicity in humans or experimental animals are based on scientific judgment, with consideration given to all relevant information.

The NTP criteria for listing an agent, substance, mixture, or exposure circumstance in the RoC are as follows:

Known To Be Human Carcinogen:

There is sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity from studies in humans * , which indicates a causal relationship between exposure to the agent, substance, or mixture, and human cancer.

Reasonably Anticipated To Be Human Carcinogen:

There is limited evidence of carcinogenicity from studies in humans * , which indicates that causal interpretation is credible, but that alternative explanations, such as chance, bias, or confounding factors, could not adequately be excluded,

or

there is sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity from studies in experimental animals, which indicates there is an increased incidence of malignant and/or a combination of malignant and benign tumors (1) in multiple species or at multiple tissue sites, or (2) by multiple routes of exposure, or (3) to an unusual degree with regard to incidence, site, or type of tumor, or age at onset,

or

there is less than sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in humans or laboratory animals; however, the agent, substance, or mixture belongs to a well-defined, structurally related class of substances whose members are listed in a previous Report on Carcinogens as either known to be a human carcinogen or reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen, or there is convincing relevant information that the agent acts through mechanisms indicating it would likely cause cancer in humans.

Conclusions regarding carcinogenicity in humans or experimental animals are based on scientific judgment, with consideration given to all relevant information. Relevant information includes, but is not limited to, dose response, route of exposure, chemical structure, metabolism, pharmacokinetics, sensitive sub-populations, genetic effects, or other data relating to mechanism of action or factors that may be unique to a given substance. For example, there may be substances for which there is evidence of carcinogenicity in laboratory animals, but there are compelling data indicating that the agent acts through mechanisms which do not operate in humans and would therefore not reasonably be anticipated to cause cancer in humans.

Editor's Note

 

Glossary

Citation

(2011). Carcinogen. Retrieved from http://www.eoearth.org/view/article/51cbf0997896bb431f6a24a4

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