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J Toxicol Environ Health B Crit Rev. 2012;15(5):332-47. doi: 10.1080/10937404.2012.689555.

Environmental radon exposure and childhood leukemia.

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School of Public Health, Soochow University, Suzhou, China.


Despite the fact that animal and human epidemiological studies confirmed a link between radon exposure in homes and increased risk of lung cancer in general population, other types of cancers induced by radon, such as leukemia, have not been consistently demonstrated. The aim of this review was to summarize data published thus far from ecological and case-control studies in exposed populations, taking into account radon dose estimation and evidence of radon-induced genotoxicity, in an effort to clarify the correlation between home radon exposure and incidence of childhood leukemia. Among 12 ecological studies, 11 reported a positive association between radon levels and elevated frequency of childhood leukemia, with 8 being significant. In conjunction with ecological studies, several case-control studies on indoor radon exposure and childhood leukemia were examined, and most investigations indicated a weak association with only a few showing significance. A major source of uncertainty in radon risk assessment is radon dose estimate. Methods for radon exposure measurement in homes of children are one of the factors that affect the risk estimates in a case-control study. The effects of radon-induced genetic damage were studied both in vitro and in vivo using genetic endpoints including chromosomal aberration (CA), micronuclei (MN) formation, gene mutation, and deletions and insertions. By applying a meta-analysis, an increased risk of childhood leukemia induced by indoor radon exposure was noted for overall leukemia and for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Data thus indicated an association between environmental radon exposure and elevated leukemia incidence, but more evidence is required in both human investigations and animal mechanistic research before this assumption may be confirmed with certainty.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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