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Environ Res. 2018 Oct;166:466-472. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2018.06.035. Epub 2018 Jun 23.

Effects of incomplete residential histories on studies of environmental exposure with application to childhood leukaemia and background radiation.

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Faculty of Medicine and Biosciences, University of Tampere, Tampere, Finland. Electronic address:
Cancer Epidemiology Unit, NDPH, University of Oxford, Old Road Campus, Oxford OX3 7LF, UK.
Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Tampere, Tampere, Finland; UKK Institute, Tampere, Finland.
Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine (ISPM), University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland.
Tampere Center for Child Health Research, University of Tampere and Tampere University Hospital, Tampere, Finland.
Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Tampere, Tampere, Finland; Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority, Helsinki, Finland.


When evaluating environmental exposures, residential exposures are often most relevant. In most countries, it is impossible to establish full residential histories. In recent publications, childhood leukaemia and background radiation have been studied with and without full residential histories. This paper investigates the consequences of lacking such full data. Data from a nationwide Finnish Case-Control study of Childhood Leukaemia and gamma rays were analysed. This included 1093 children diagnosed with leukaemia in Finland in 1990-2011. Each case was matched by gender and year of birth to three controls. Full residential histories were available. The dose estimates were based on outdoor background radiation measurements. The indoor dose rates were obtained with a dwelling type specific conversion coefficient and the individual time-weighted mean red bone marrow dose rates were calculated using age-specific indoor occupancy and the age and gender of the child. Radiation from Chernobyl fallout was included and a 2-year latency period assumed. The median separation between successive dwellings was 3.4 km and median difference in red bone marrow dose 2.9 nSv/h. The Pearson correlation between the indoor red bone marrow dose rates of successive dwellings was 0.62 (95% CI 0.60, 0.64). The odds ratio for a 10 nSv/h increase in dose rate with full residential histories was 1.01 (95% CI 0.97, 1.05). Similar odds ratios were calculated with dose rates based on only the first dwelling (1.02, 95% CI 0.99, 1.05) and only the last dwelling (1.00, 95% CI 0.98, 1.03) and for subjects who had lived only in a single dwelling (1.05, 95% CI 0.98, 1.10). Knowledge of full residential histories would always be the option of choice. However, due to the strong correlation between exposure estimates in successive dwellings and the uncertainty about the most relevant exposure period, estimation of overall exposure level from a single address is also informative. Error in dose estimation is likely to cause some degree of classical measurement error resulting in bias towards the null.


Childhood leukaemia; Exposure assessment; Residential history

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