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


VOL.: 32 (1983) (p. 419)

CAS No.: 85-01-8

5. Summary of Data Reported and Evaluation

5.1 Experimental data

Phenanthrene was tested for carcinogenicity in two fragmentary studies in mice by skin painting and no skin tumour was reported. In the six studies in which phenanthrene was tested in the mouse-skin initiation-promotion assay, it was active as an initiator in one study, inactive as an initiator in four others, and inactive as a promoter in one study.

Phenanthrene administered by intraperitoneal or subcutaneous injection to neonatal mice did not increase the incidence of tumours over that in controls. Experiments involving a single oral administration to rats and a single subcutaneous injection to mice were inadequate for evaluation.

No data on the teratogenicity of this compound were available.

Phenanthrene has generally been reported to be non-mutagenic to Salmonella typhimurium; however, in one study it was reported to be mutagenic to Salmonella typhimurium in the presence of a high concentration of an exogenous metabolic system. It gave negative results in an assay for differential survival using DNA-repair-proficient/-deficient strains of Bacillus subtilis. It did not induce DNA repair, chromosomal aberrations or sister chromatid exchange in cultured mammalian cells. It did induce mutation in one experiment in human cells in culture in the presence of an exogenous metabolic system, and induced sister chromatid exchange in Chinese hamster bone-marrow cells in vivo. The compound failed to induce morphological transformation.

There is limited evidence that phenanthrene is active in short-term tests.

5.2 Human data

Phenanthrene occurs as a major component of the total content of polynuclear aromatic compounds in the environment. Human exposure to phenanthrene occurs primarily through the smoking of tobacco, inhalation of polluted air or by ingestion of food or water contaminated by combustion effluents.

5.3 Evaluation

The available data are inadequate to permit an evaluation of the carcinogenicity of phenanthrene to experimental animals.

For definition of the italicized terms, see Preamble Evaluation.

Subsequent evaluation: Suppl. 7 (1987) (p. 69: Group 3)


Last updated: 17 April 1998

    See Also:
       Toxicological Abbreviations