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Dose Response. 2009 Dec 10;8(2):227-52. doi: 10.2203/dose-response.09-035.Feinendegen.

Low-dose cancer risk modeling must recognize up-regulation of protection.

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  • 1Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf. Germany; and Brookhaven National Laboratory, Upton, NY, USA.


IONIZING RADIATION PRIMARILY PERTURBS THE BASIC MOLECULAR LEVEL PROPORTIONAL TO DOSE, WITH POTENTIAL DAMAGE PROPAGATION TO HIGHER LEVELS: cells, tissues, organs, and whole body. There are three types of defenses against damage propagation. These operate deterministically and below a certain impact threshold there is no propagation. Physical-static defenses precede metabolic-dynamic defenses acting immediately: scavenging of toxins; - molecular repair, especially of DNA; - removal of damaged cells either by apoptosis, necrosis, phagocytosis, cell differentiation-senescence, or by immune responses, - followed by replacement of lost elements. Another metabolic-dynamic defense arises delayed by up-regulating immediately operating defense mechanisms. Some of these adaptive protections may last beyond a year and all create temporary protection against renewed potentially toxic impacts also from non-radiogenic endogenous sources. Adaptive protections have a maximum after single tissue absorbed doses around 100 to 200 mSv and disappear with higher doses. Low dose rates initiate maximum protection likely at lower cell doses delivered repetitively at certain time intervals. Adaptive protection preventing only about 2 - 3 % of endogenous life-time cancer risk would fully balance a calculated induced cancer risk at about 100 mSv, in agreement with epidemiological data and concordant with an hormetic effect. Low-dose-risk modeling must recognize up-regulation of protection.


Low-dose cancer risk; adaptive protections; hormesis

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