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Health Phys. 2013 Jan;104(1):26-40. doi: 10.1097/HP.0b013e31826119ed.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency radiogenic risk projections: uncertainty analysis.

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  • 1U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (MC 6608J), Washington, DC 20460, USA.


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has updated its estimates of cancer risks due to low doses of ionizing radiation for the U.S. population, as well as their scientific basis. For the most part, these estimates were calculated using models recommended in the recent National Academy of Sciences' (BEIR VII) report on health effects from low levels of ionizing radiation. The new risk assessment includes uncertainty bounds associated with the projections for gender and cancer site-specific lifetime attributable risks. For most cancer sites, these uncertainty bounds were calculated using probability distributions for BEIR VII model parameter values, derived from a novel Bayesian analysis of cancer incidence data from the atomic bomb survivor lifespan study (LSS) cohort and subjective distributions for other relevant sources of uncertainty. This approach allowed for quantification of uncertainties associated with: 1) the effect of sampling variability on inferences drawn from the LSS cohort about the linear dose response and its dependence on temporal factors such as age-at-exposure, 2) differences in the radiogenic risks in the Japanese LSS cohort versus the U.S. population, 3) dosimetry errors, and 4) several other non-sampling sources. Some of the uncertainty associated with how risk depends on dose and dose rate was also quantified. For uniform whole-body exposures of low-dose gamma radiation to the entire population, EPA's cancer incidence risk coefficients and corresponding 90% uncertainty intervals (Gy) are 9.55 × 10 (4.3 × 10 to 1.8 × 10) for males and 1.35 × 10 (6.5 × 10 to 2.5 × 10) for females, where the numbers in parentheses represent an estimated 90% uncertainty interval. For many individual cancer sites, risk coefficients differ from corresponding uncertainty bounds by factors of about three to five, although uncertainties are larger for cancers of the stomach, prostate, liver, and uterus. Uncertainty intervals for many, but not all, cancer sites are similar to those given in BEIR VII, which were derived using a non-Bayesian approach.

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