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The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) was established in May 1965 through a resolution of the Eighteenth World Health Assembly, as an extension of the World Health Organization (WHO), after a French initiative. As a WHO Agency, IARC follows the general governing rules of the United Nations family. However, it is governed by its own governing bodies: the IARC Governing Council and the IARC Scientific Council.

Governing Council

IARC’s general policy is directed by a Governing Council, composed of the Representatives of Participating States and of the WHO Director-General. Its research programme is regularly reviewed by a Scientific Council. The Governing Council elects IARC’s Director, who serves for a five-year term and is eligible for reappointment once only.

In May 2023, the Governing Council re-elected Dr Elisabete Weiderpass (Brazil) as Director of the Agency, for a second five-year term, starting on 1 January 2024.


The IARC Governing Council meets every year in ordinary session, usually the week before the WHO World Health Assembly. It last met on 10–12 May 2023 (Chairperson, Professor Norbert Ifrah [France]), and the next regular session is scheduled for 15–16 May 2024 (Chairperson, Professor Norbert Ifrah [France]).

Scientific Council

The Scientific Council consists of highly qualified scientists, selected on the basis of their technical competence in cancer research and allied fields. Members of the Scientific Council are appointed as experts and not as representatives of Participating States. When a vacancy arises on the Scientific Council, the Participating State that nominated the departing member may nominate up to two experts to replace that member. Scientific Council members are appointed for four-year terms by the Governing Council. The purpose of this Council is, among other things, to make periodical evaluations of IARC’s activities, to make recommendations on the programme of permanent activities and to prepare special projects to be submitted to the Governing Council.


The IARC Scientific Council meets every year in ordinary session in late January-early February. It last met on 7–9 February 2024 at the new IARC building in Lyon (Chairperson, Dr Manami Inoue [Japan]), and the next session is scheduled for 12–14 February 2025 by teleconference (Chairperson, Dr Luis Felipe Ribeiro Pinto [Brazil]).


The Secretariat is the administrative and technical organ of the Agency. It consists of the Director and the technical and administrative staff. The Director of IARC is elected by, and reports to, the Governing Council. The Director is responsible for the development and implementation of the scientific programme and oversees the day-to-day operation of the Agency.

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