Causality in the Sciences

TitleThe IARC and mechanistic evidence
Publication TypeBook Chapter (with title)
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsLeuridan, B, Weber, E
Secondary AuthorsIllari, PMcKay, Russo, F, Williamson, J
Book TitleCausality in the Sciences
Pages91–109
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN Number9780199574131
Abstract

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is an organization which seeks to identify the causes of human cancer. For each agent, such as betel quid or Human Papillomaviruses, they review the available evidence deriving from epidemiological studies, animal experiments and information about mechanisms (and other data). The evidence of the different groups is combined such that an overall assessment of the carcinogenicity of the agent in question is obtained. In this paper, we critically review IARC's carcinogenicity evaluations. First we show that serious objections can be raised against their criteria and procedures - more specifically regarding the role of mechanistic knowledge in establishing causal claims. Our arguments are based on the problems of confounders, of the assessment of the temporal stability of carcinogenic relations, viz. How we should treat the carcinogenicity evaluations that were based on the current procedures. After showing that this question is important we argue that an overall dismissal of the current evaluations would be too radical. Instead, we argue in favour of a stepwise re-evaluation of the current findings.

Citation Key1223153