The first step in cancer prevention is to identify the causes of human cancer, followed by an evaluation of the effectiveness of prevention strategies. The IARC Monographs have been the point of reference for evaluation of carcinogenic hazards for more than 40 years. In 1995, the IARC Handbooks of Cancer Prevention were launched to complement the IARC Monographs by providing evaluations of approaches to cancer prevention. The first 14 volumes evaluated the cancer-preventive activity of chemopreventive agents and of preventive actions, the effectiveness of screening, and the effectiveness of tobacco control.
The Handbooks are valuable tools for cancer control, providing the same rigorous evaluation process as the Monographs but also including public health recommendations, thus enabling a translation of evidence into policy. They serve national health agencies to inform their preventive strategies. Given the political focus of the United Nations (UN) on the prevention of noncommunicable diseases, the availability of an international consensus from an independent, specialized agency within the UN family provides an authoritative basis for national decision-making, and should also facilitate national recommendations.
Volume 15 of the IARC Handbooks of Cancer Prevention will evaluate Breast Cancer Screening. Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide, in both developed and developing countries, and the potential role of primary prevention is limited because most risk factors for breast cancer are directly linked with endogenous hormone levels and reproductive choices. Therefore, secondary prevention encompassing all forms of screening for breast cancer is a priority. In 2002, an IARC Working Group developed IARC Handbook Volume 7 on Breast Cancer Screening. Today, an up-to-date, objective, and independent evaluation of the benefits and harms of all modalities of screening in different age groups and different settings is urgently needed. This evaluation will be performed by a group of experts who will meet at IARC on 11-18 November 2014.