Evaluation of the carcinogenicity of carbon tetrachloride

Samuel M. Cohen, Christopher Bevan, Bhaskar Gollapudi, James E. Klaunig

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Carbon tetrachloride (CCl4) has been extensively used and reported to produce toxicity, most notably involving the liver. Carbon tetrachloride metabolism involves CYP450-mediated bioactivation to trichloromethyl and trichloromethyl peroxy radicals, which are capable of macromolecular interaction with cell components including lipids and proteins. Radical interaction with lipids produces lipid peroxidation which can mediate cellular damage leading to cell death. Chronic exposure with CCl4 a rodent hepatic carcinogen with a mode of action (MOA) exhibits the following key events: 1) metabolic activation; 2) hepatocellular toxicity and cell death; 3) consequent regenerative increased cell proliferation; and 4) hepatocellular proliferative lesions (foci, adenomas, carcinomas). The induction of rodent hepatic tumors is dependent upon the dose (concentration and exposure duration) of CCl4, with tumors only occurring at cytotoxic exposure levels. Adrenal benign pheochromocytomas were also increased in mice at high CCl4 exposures; however, these tumors are not of relevant importance to human cancer risk. Few epidemiology studies that have been performed on CCl4, do not provide credible evidence of enhanced risk of occurrence of liver or adrenal cancers, but these studies have serious flaws limiting their usefulness for risk assessment. This manuscript summarizes the toxicity and carcinogenicity attributed to CCl4, specifically addressing MOA, dose-response, and human relevance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)342-370
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Toxicology and Environmental Health - Part B: Critical Reviews
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2023


  • cell proliferation
  • cytotoxic mode of action
  • inhalation
  • liver tumors
  • pheochromocytoma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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