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Int J Occup Med Environ Health. 2008;21(4):269-75. doi: 10.2478/v10001-008-0037-5.

Canadian National Dose Registry of radiation workers: overview of research from 1951 through 2007.

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  • 1Health Environments and Consumer Safety Branch, Health Canada, Tunney's Pasture, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.


The National Dose Registry (NDR) of Canada is a unique resource for a direct estimation of the potential health risks associated with low doses of ionizing radiation. This is the largest national occupational radiation exposure database, comprising records for about 600,000 nuclear, industrial, medical and dental workers. An analysis of the NDR data based on a cohort of about 200,000 workers first exposed before 1984 and followed through 1987 and 1988 for mortality and cancer incidence, respectively, revealed that the mortality from most causes of death considered was lower than that in the general population, which is typical of occupational cohorts. Although the same was also observed for cancer incidence, there was a significant increase in the incidence of thyroid cancer and melanoma which, however, was not clearly related to radiation exposure. A significant dose-response was found for mortality from all causes, all cancers, lung cancer, cardiovascular diseases, accidents, for incidence of all cancers, cancers of the rectum and lung, leukaemia, all cancers except lung, and all cancers except leukaemia. In addition, in male workers, a significant dose-response was found for the incidence of colon, pancreatic, and testicular cancers. The estimates of cancer risks (mortality and incidence) were higher than those in most other occupational cohorts and in the studies on atomic bomb survivors. The biologically based dose-response models used to describe lung cancer incidence in the NDR showed that for a protracted exposure to low radiation doses there was a significant radiation effect on the promotion and malignant conversion, but not on the initiation stage of carcinogenesis. This stands in contrast to the findings for high-dose acute exposures in A-bomb survivors, where the initiation and possibly promotion were found to be affected by radiation exposure. Evidence of an inverse dose-rate effect (i.e. an increase in the risk with a protraction of a given cumulative dose) was found in the NDR cohort.

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