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Health Phys. 2009 Nov;97(5):481-6. doi: 10.1097/HP.0b013e3181ab98d9.

Low-dose radiation epidemiology studies: status and issues.

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Radiation Effects Research Foundation, 5-2 Hijiyama Koen, Minami-ku, Hiroshima 732-0815, Japan.


Although the Japanese atomic bomb study and radiotherapy studies have clearly documented cancer risks from high-dose radiation exposures, radiation risk assessment groups have long recognized that protracted or low exposures to low-linear energy transfer radiations are key radiation protection concerns because these are far more common than high-exposure scenarios. Epidemiologic studies of human populations with low-dose or low dose-rate exposures are one approach to addressing those concerns. A number of large studies of radiation workers (Chernobyl clean-up workers, U.S. and Chinese radiological technologists, and the 15-country worker study) or of persons exposed to environmental radiation at moderate to low levels (residents near Techa River, Semipalatinsk, Chernobyl, or nuclear facilities) have been conducted. A variety of studies of medical radiation exposures (multiple-fluoroscopy, diagnostic (131)I, scatter radiation doses from radiotherapy, etc.) also are of interest. Key results from these studies are summarized and compared with risk estimates from the Japanese atomic bomb study. Ideally, one would like the low-dose and low dose-rate studies to guide radiation risk estimation regarding the shape of the dose-response curve, DDREF (dose and dose-rate effectiveness factor), and risk at low doses. However, the degree to which low-dose studies can do so is subject to various limitations, especially those pertaining to dosimetric uncertainties and limited statistical power. The identification of individuals who are particularly susceptible to radiation cancer induction also is of high interest in terms of occupational and medical radiation protection. Several examples of studies of radiation-related cancer susceptibility are discussed, but none thus far have clearly identified radiation-susceptible genotypes.

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