UICC and the TNM Classification of Malignant Tumours

For over fifty years, UICC has worked through international collaboration to maintain TNM classification, a globally recognised standard and unified system for classifying the extent of spread of cancer.


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The TNM (“Tumor”, “Nodes”, “Metastases”) cancer staging system was developed by Prof. Pierre Denoix at the Institute Gustave-Roussy in France between 1943 and 1952. The following year, at the International Congress of Radiology, it was adopted as a common international language to facilitate cancer staging.

The Union for International Cancer Control continued the work on cancer staging and in the 1950s established a Special Committee on Clinical Stage Classification under the Chairmanship of Dr Denoix who later on became UICC’s President. The Committee and its direct descendant, the UICC TNM Prognostic Factors Project, continued to develop the TNM Classification. It subsequently became the most widely used cancer staging system in the world.

After a process of international consultations and reviews in 1958, the Union for International Cancer Control produced the first international TNM recommendation for breast and larynx cancers. In 1968 UICC published the first pocket book, now referenced as the UICC TNM Classification of Malignant Tumours.

TNM Classification of Malignant Tumours, 1st edition cover

1st edition of the TNM Classification
of Malignant Tumours, published by
the International Union Against
Cancer, as UICC was then known.

UICC has continued updating the TNM system and publishing the TNM Classification of Malignant Tumours since 1968 and it is currently in its 8th edition. UICC also issues other cancer staging-related publications such as TNM Supplement and the TNM Atlas).

In addition, UICC collaborated with the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) to develop the Essential TNM, which can be used to collect stage data when complete information is not available and is designed for use in cancer registries in resource-limited settings.

To improve and promote the correct use of the TNM Classification, UICC has developed a series of e-learning materials and maintains a helpdesk for TNM users.

Download this PDF for more on TNM's history, evolution and milestones:


Last update: 
Friday 25 June 2021