International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) - Summaries & Evaluations


VOL.: 1 (1972) (p. 40)

5. Summary of Data Reported and Evaluation

5.1 Animal carcinogenicity data

Lead acetate is carcinogenic in rats and mice; lead subacetate and lead phosphate are carcinogenic in the rat. Given orally, they produce benign and malignant tumours of the kidney. The observation that exposure of rats to lead subacetate may result in an increased frequency of gliomas needs confirmation, as well as the observation of a high frequency of tumours of the testis, adrenal, thyroid, pituitary and prostate, together with renal tumours, in rats receiving lead acetate. No induction of tumours was reported to occur following exposure to lead arsenate or lead carbonate, but the evidence cannot be held as conclusive.

The pattern of absorption metabolism and storage of lead in the body seems to be similar in all animal species that have been studied. The kidney is a target from the point of view of toxicity in all animal species studied. Renal enlargement and the appearance of intranuclear inclusion bodies in the epithelial cells occur in all laboratory animal species and in man in the same way.

5.2 Human carcinogenicity data

There is no evidence to suggest that exposure to lead salts causes cancer of any site in man. However, only one epidemiological study of the relationships between exposure to lead and the occurrence of cancer has been reported. It must be noted that the level of human exposure equivalent to the levels of lead acetate producing renal tumours in rats is 810 mg per day (550 mg Pb). This level appears to exceed by far the maximum tolerated dose for man.

Subsequent evaluations: Vol. 23 (1980); Suppl. 7 (1987)

Last updated: 12 March 1998

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