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Dose Response. 2008;6(4):333-51. doi: 10.2203/dose-response.07-005.Scott. Epub 2007 Sep 30.

It's time for a new low-dose-radiation risk assessment paradigm--one that acknowledges hormesis.

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  • 1Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute, 2425 Ridgecrest Drive SE, Albuquerque, NM 87108, USA.


The current system of radiation protection for humans is based on the linear-no-threshold (LNT) risk-assessment paradigm. Perceived harm to irradiated nuclear workers and the public is mainly reflected through calculated hypothetical increased cancers. The LNT-based system of protection employs easy-to-implement measures of radiation exposure. Such measures include the equivalent dose (a biological-damage-potential-weighted measure) and the effective dose (equivalent dose multiplied by a tissue-specific relative sensitivity factor for stochastic effects). These weighted doses have special units such as the sievert (Sv) and millisievert (mSv, one thousandth of a sievert). Radiation-induced harm is controlled via enforcing exposure limits expressed as effective dose. Expected cancer cases can be easily computed based on the summed effective dose (person-sievert) for an irradiated group or population. Yet the current system of radiation protection needs revision because radiation-induced natural protection (hormesis) has been neglected. A novel, nonlinear, hormetic relative risk model for radiation-induced cancers is discussed in the context of establishing new radiation exposure limits for nuclear workers and the public.


adaptive response; hormesis; radiation; risk assessment

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