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Outside the Lab Oncology, Regulation and standards

Onward and Upward for the Blue Books

At a Glance

  • When dealing with cancer, classification is the key to diagnosis – and the WHO Blue Books are the definitive resource for tumor classification
  • As evidence evolves, so must the books, which are changing to meet international standards, and to include new technologies and approaches
  • As an international collaboration, the books must strike a balance between the needs of high- and low-income settings
  • The content of the books is constantly changing as we learn more about cancer, so scientific debate is encouraged to produce the best possible documents

Few diseases receive more attention or are more thoroughly studied than cancer. We, as pathologists, are uniquely placed to understand cancer and, as a result, to develop logical, evidence-based classifications for the disease. The classification of cancer is not only an important academic exercise in its own right, but it also underpins the diagnosis and treatment of individual patients, as well as informing research into new therapies and prevention strategies. The World Health Organization (WHO)’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is responsible for the Classification of Tumors – a series of reference books known colloquially as the “Blue Books,” which collate key information on cancer for those who study, diagnose, monitor, or treat the disease.

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About the Author

Ian Cree

Ian Cree is Head of the World Health Organization Classification of Tumors Group, International Agency for Research on Cancer, Lyon, France.

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