WHO/IARC Classification of Tumours - About

Historical perspective

The WHO Blue Book project was initiated by WHO through a resolution of the WHO Executive Board in 1956. The first edition was edited by Dr Leslie Sobin, WHO, and published by WHO Geneva in 1967-1981. The first edition had a very simple format with a list of accepted diagnostic terms, together with the respective International Classification of Diseases for Oncology (ICD-O) morphology codes. The remainder of the volume comprised short descriptions of histological diagnostic criteria.
The second edition was also edited by Dr Leslie Sobin and published by Springer (25 volumes, 1982-2002). In this edition, description of histological features was complemented by relevant immunohistochemical markers. Each tumour type was illustrated by at least one colour histological image.

Since the third edition, IARC has been responsible for the WHO Blue Book project. The series editors of the third edition were Dr Paul Kleihues and Dr Leslie Sobin. Ten volumes were published in 2000-2005. This edition marked a transformation in content and layout. Each volume was richly illustrated with histological images. Genetic diagnostic criteria were dealt with extensively, and a wealth of epidemiological and clinical data was added.

The current (4th) edition was initiated in 2006 under the guidance of the series editors Drs Fred T. Bosman, Elaine S. Jaffe, Sunil R. Lakhani, Hiroko Ohgaki. In principle, the fourth edition comprises a revision and update of the third, but also highlights the increasing importance of genetic information; some tumours are now defined by specific genetic alterations.