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Risk Anal. 1994 Feb;14(1):25-34.

A distributional approach to characterizing low-dose cancer risk.

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Interdisciplinary Programs in Health, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts 02115.


Since cancer risk at very low doses cannot be directly measured in humans or animals, mathematical extrapolation models and scientific judgment are required. This article demonstrates a probabilistic approach to carcinogen risk assessment that employs probability trees, subjective probabilities, and standard bootstrapping procedures. The probabilistic approach is applied to the carcinogenic risk of formaldehyde in environmental and occupational settings. Sensitivity analyses illustrate conditional estimates of risk for each path in the probability tree. Fundamental mechanistic uncertainties are characterized. A strength of the analysis is the explicit treatment of alternative beliefs about pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics. The resulting probability distributions on cancer risk are compared with the point estimates reported by federal agencies. Limitations of the approach are discussed as well as future research directions.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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