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

(Group 3)

For definition of Groups, see Preamble Evaluation.

VOL.: 71 (1999) (p. 671)

CAS No.: 7722-84-1

5. Summary of Data Reported and Evaluation

5.1 Exposure data

Hydrogen peroxide is produced in moderately high volume and is widely used. Its primary uses are as a chemical intermediate, as a bleaching agent in the textile and paper and pulp industry and in water treatment operations. It occurs naturally at low levels in the air and water, in human and plant tissues and bacteria, and in food and beverages.

5.2 Human carcinogenicity data

No adequate data on the carcinogenicity of hydrogen peroxide were available to the Working Group.

5.3 Animal carcinogenicity data

Hydrogen peroxide was tested in mice by oral administration, skin application and subcutaneous administration and in hamsters by topical application to oral mucosa. In mice, adenomas and carcinomas of the duodenum were found following oral administration. The other studies in mice and the study in hamsters were inadequate for evaluation. One study in mice and one study in hamsters showed no promoting activity of hydrogen peroxide.

5.4 Other relevant data

Hydrogen peroxide is formed intracellularly as a result of certain enzymatic reactions. Hydrogen peroxide, either from this source or externally applied, generates hydroxyl radicals that initiate lipid peroxidation chain reactions within exposed cells and can lead to DNA damage and cell death. DNA damage has been demonstrated in bacteria and in cultured mammalian cells. In addition, hydrogen peroxide induced mutations in bacteria, yeast and other fungi and there is some evidence that it can do so in Chinese hamster V79 and mouse lymphoma L5178Y cells at the hprt locus. Chromosomal aberrations and sister chromatid exchanges are induced in both human and other mammalian cells in vitro, but it did not induce chromosomal aberrations in the bone-marrow cells of exposed rats.

5.5 Evaluation

There is inadequate evidence in humans for the carcinogenicity of hydrogen peroxide.

There is limited evidence in experimental animals for the carcinogenicity of hydrogen peroxide.

Overall evaluation

Hydrogen peroxide is not classifiable as to its carcinogenicity to humans (Group 3).

Previous evaluations: Vol. 36 (1985); Suppl. 7 (1987)


Last updated: 13 April 1999

    See Also:
       Toxicological Abbreviations
       Hydrogen peroxide (FAO Nutrition Meetings Report Series 40abc)
       Hydrogen peroxide (WHO Food Additives Series 5)
       Hydrogen peroxide (PIM 946)