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Proc Biol Sci. 2017 Sep 13;284(1862). pii: 20171070. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2017.1070.

A restatement of the natural science evidence base concerning the health effects of low-level ionizing radiation.

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Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3PS, UK
Oxford Martin School, University of Oxford, 34 Broad Street, Oxford OX1 3BD, UK.
Oxford Martin School, University of Oxford, 34 Broad Street, Oxford OX1 3BD, UK
Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), Center for Research in Environmental Epidemiology (CREAL), Barcelona, Spain.
College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences, Wellcome Surgical Institute, University of Glasgow, Garscube Estate, Glasgow G61 1QH, UK.
Medical Research Council, Harwell, Didcot OX11 0RD, UK.
Center for Radiation Protection Research, Department of Molecular Biosciences, The Wenner-Gren Institute, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden.
Christie Medical Physics and Engineering, Christie Hospital and University of Manchester, Manchester, UK.
Mount Vernon Cancer Centre, Northwood HA6 2RN, UK.
Genome Damage and Stability Centre, University of Sussex, Science Park Road, Falmer, Brighton BN1 9RQ, UK.
Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge, Trumpington Street, Cambridge CB2 1PZ, UK.
Institute of Health and Society, Newcastle University, Baddiley-Clark Building, Richardson Road, Newcastle upon Tyne NE2 4AX, UK.
Ocean and Earth Science, University of Southampton, Southampton SO14 3ZH, UK.
Radiation Effects Research Foundation, Hiroshima, Japan.
Department of Surgery and Cancer, Imperial College London, Room 11L04, Charing Cross Hospital, Fulham Palace Road, London W6 8RF, UK.
Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health, Institute of Population Health, Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences, University of Manchester, Ellen Wilkinson Building, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PL, UK.
Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3PS, UK.


Exposure to ionizing radiation is ubiquitous, and it is well established that moderate and high doses cause ill-health and can be lethal. The health effects of low doses or low dose-rates of ionizing radiation are not so clear. This paper describes a project which sets out to summarize, as a restatement, the natural science evidence base concerning the human health effects of exposure to low-level ionizing radiation. A novel feature, compared to other reviews, is that a series of statements are listed and categorized according to the nature and strength of the evidence that underpins them. The purpose of this restatement is to provide a concise entrée into this vibrant field, pointing the interested reader deeper into the literature when more detail is needed. It is not our purpose to reach conclusions on whether the legal limits on radiation exposures are too high, too low or just right. Our aim is to provide an introduction so that non-specialist individuals in this area (be they policy-makers, disputers of policy, health professionals or students) have a straightforward place to start. The summary restatement of the evidence and an extensively annotated bibliography are provided as appendices in the electronic supplementary material.


cancer; epidemiology; evidence for policy; nuclear; radiation; radon

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