IARC notifies scientific journal of a non-declared potential conflict of interests in IARC paper

Tue, Jan 14, 2014


Kathleen Ruff, RightOnCanada.ca

A number of scientists and health defenders made a complaint to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) on January 6, 2014, regarding a violation of IARC’s conflict of interest requirements in a paper that IARC published on health risks of asbestos in the British Journal of Cancer.

The paper on asbestos stated that the authors had no conflict of interest. However, the corresponding author for the IARC paper, Paulo Boffetta, was being paid by an Italian company to help the company defeat charges of criminal negligence, causing the deaths of a dozen of its workers from asbestos-related diseases, at the same time as Dr. Boffetta was co-writing the IARC paper in 2011. Dr. Boffetta argued in court in 2011, on behalf of the company, that continued exposure to asbestos causes no additional harm to health.

Boffetta was a former employee of IARC, but since 2009 has been working for his own private consulting company, together with other former IARC employees, in Lyon, France, where IARC is located. Boffetta has published a number of articles, financed by various industry groups, that deny harm caused by the industry’s product, even though the products are recognized as known carcinogens.

The IARC article has been severely criticized by scientists for putting forward inaccurate and misleading information that serves the interests of the asbestos industry by minimizing and creating doubt about harm caused by chrysotile asbestos and by appearing to support “controlled use” of asbestos.


IARC has now informed the journal editor about Boffetta’s non-declared potential conflict of interests

January 14, 2014

Dear Kathleen Ruff,

Following your letter we have informed the editor of the British Journal of Cancer about a non-declared potential conflict of interests of one of the co-authors.


Kurt Straif, MD PhD MPH

Head IARC Monographs

International Agency for Research on Cancer

World Health Organization

The concerns scientists have expressed regarding inaccurate and misleading information in the IARC paper on asbestos and improprieties in IARC’s Uralasbest research project in collaboration with Russian scientists who promote asbestos use, will be considered by the IARC Ethics Committee.


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