Detection of risk of cancer to man

Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Containing Papers of a Biological Character
R Peto


Epidemiology can pick out large-scale determinants of human cancer, such as smoking. Also, epidemiology can pick out carcinogens such as asbestos to which groups of perhaps a few hundred or a few thousand workers have been heavily exposed for decades. However, if highly exposed groups cannot be studied then epidemiology cannot recognize carcinogens which, although perhaps widely distributed, produce only a small percentage increase in particular cancers. Almost all of the environmental pollutants that can affect human cancer incidence will do so only to a very minor extent, at the levels to which we are currently exposed. For this reason, and also because it is often difficult to define an exposed and an unexposed group which do not differ in other ways as well, it will almost always be impossible to do anything epidemiologically except to set a very crude upper limit on their likely hazards. The only way, therefore, to get any direct estimate of these hazards is by laboratory studies of the effects of high doses on various model systems. For this and for other reasons, it would be highly desirable to have good laboratory models for human carcinogenesis. The characteristics required of satisfactory laboratory systems are review...Continue Reading


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