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Hum Exp Toxicol. 1996 Oct;15(10):787-98.

The linearized multistage model and the future of quantitative risk assessment.

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ICF-Kaiser, Ruston, Louisiana 71270, USA.


The linearized multistage (LMS) model has for over 15 years been the default dose-response model used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and other federal and state regulatory agencies in the United States for calculating quantitative estimates of low-dose carcinogenic risks from animal data. The LMS model is in essence a flexible statistical model that can describe both linear and non-linear dose-response patterns, and that produces an upper confidence bound on the linear low-dose slope of the dose-response curve. Unlike its namesake, the Armitage-Doll multistage model, the parameters of the LMS do not correspond to actual physiological phenomena. Thus the LMS is 'biological' only to the extent that the true biological dose response is linear at low dose and that low-dose slope is reflected in the experimental data. If the true dose response is non-linear the LMS upper bound may overestimate the true risk by many orders of magnitude. However, competing low-dose extrapolation models, including those derived from 'biologically-based models' that are capable of incorporating additional biological information, have not shown evidence to date of being able to produce quantitative estimates of low-dose risks that are any more accurate than those obtained from the LMS model. Further, even if these attempts were successful, the extent to which more accurate estimates of low-dose risks in a test animal species would translate into improved estimates of human risk is questionable. Thus, it does not appear possible at present to develop a quantitative approach that would be generally applicable and that would offer significant improvements upon the crude bounding estimates of the type provided by the LMS model. Draft USEPA guidelines for cancer risk assessment incorporate an approach similar to the LMS for carcinogens having a linear mode of action. However, under these guidelines quantitative estimates of low-dose risks would not be developed for carcinogens having a non-linear mode of action; instead dose-response modelling would be used in the experimental range to calculate an LED10* (a statistical lower bound on the dose corresponding to a 10% increase in risk), and safety factors would be applied to the LED10* to determine acceptable exposure levels for humans. This approach is very similar to the one presently used by USEPA for non-carcinogens. Rather than using one approach for carcinogens believed to have a linear mode of action and a different approach for all other health effects, it is suggested herein that it would be more appropriate to use an approach conceptually similar to the 'LED10*-safety factor' approach for all health effects, and not to routinely develop quantitative risk estimates from animal data.

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