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Jpn J Cancer Res. 1989 Sep;80(9):795-807.

Human carcinogens so far identified.

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International Agency for Research on Cancer, Lyon, France.


The massive exploitation of natural resources, of which tobacco and asbestos are two conspicuous, though very different examples, and the synthesis of industrial chemicals have generated new hazards and new carcinogens which have been added to older ones. The majority of the over 50 agents that have been firmly identified so far as being human carcinogens belong to the relatively new hazards, that is environmental chemicals or chemical mixtures to which humans have been exposed only during the last century and a half. They are of more importance for cancer occurring in men than in women, and there is no evidence so far that they are related to cancers occurring at some of the most common target sites in either sex. It would be mistaken to believe that complete cancer prevention could be achieved solely by controlling these new, or relatively new, carcinogenic agents, but it would be similarly wrong to deny the importance of trying to control them and of continuing to do so. The experimental approach for the identification of carcinogens has an irreplaceable role to play in preventing the dispersal into our environment of new hazards and in identifying among the chemicals already in use, those that are carcinogenic. That a closer integration between the epidemiological and the experimental approaches may succeed in substantially reducing the size of the unknown region within the spectrum of cancer-causing factors, is today's hope that awaits confirmation. At the same time, advances in the understanding of the mechanisms underlying the different steps of the process leading to the clinical manifestation of cancer may help in the uncovering of agents and risk factors that the approaches used, at least in the way they have been used until now, may not have been apt to identify.

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