Radiation for health

Could exposure to low doses of radiation cure our ills?
For decades, we have been told that exposure to radiation is dangerous. In high doses it is certainly lethal and chronic exposure is linked to the development of cancer. But, what if a short-term controlled exposure to a low dose of radiation were good for our health. Writing in today's issue of the Inderscience publication the International Journal of Low Radiation, Don Luckey, makes the startling claim that low dose radiation could be just what the doctor ordered!

Luckey, an emeritus professor of the University of Missouri, was the nutrition consultant for NASA's Apollo 11 to 17 moon missions and has spent the last several years developing the concept of improving health through exposure to low-dose radiation.

"When beliefs are abandoned and evidence from only whole body exposures to mammals is considered, it becomes obvious that increased ionizing radiation would provide abundant health," Luckey explains. He suggests that as with many nutritional elements, such as vitamins and trace metals it is possible to become deficient in radiation. "A radiation deficiency is seen in a variety of species, including rats and mice; the evidence for a radiation deficiency in humans is compelling."

In the first part of the twentieth century at a time when our understanding of radioactivity was only just emerging, health practitioners began to experiment widely with samples of radioactive materials. Then, exposure to radiation, rather than being seen as hazardous, was considered a panacea for a wide variety of ailments from arthritis to consumption.

The discovery of antibiotics and the rapid advent of the pharmaceutical industry, as well as the fact that it became apparent that exposure to high doses of radiation could be lethal led to the demise of this "alternative" approach to health.

Today, radioactivity is used in targeted therapies for certain forms of cancer, however, the use of radiation sources for treating other diseases is not currently recognized by the medical profession.

Luckey hopes to change that viewpoint and argues that more than 3000 scientific papers in the research literature point to low doses of radiation as being beneficial in human health. He points out that, as with many environmental factors, we have evolved to live successfully in the presence of ionizing radiations. His own research suggests that radiation exposure can minimize infectious disease, reduce the incidence of cancer in the young, and substantially increase average lifespan.

Studies on the growth, average lifespan, and decreased cancer mortality rates of humans exposed to low-dose irradiation show improved health, explains Luckey. This represents good evidence that we live with a partial radiation deficiency and that greater exposure to radiation would improve our health, a notion supported by 130 on the health of people living in parts of the world with higher background levels of ionizing radiation than average.

Luckey suggests that the medical use of small samples of partially shielded radioactive waste would provide a simple solution to radiation deficiency. Of course, there are several questions that will have to be answered before a health program based on this study could be implemented. How much should we have and what is the optimum exposure?

Evidence suggests that low dose exposure increases the number and activity of the immune system's white blood cells, boosts cytocrine and enzyme activity, and increases antibody production and so reduces the incidence of infection, assists in wound healing, and protects us from exposure to high doses of radiation.

"It is unfortunate that most literature of radiobiology involves fear and regulations about the minimum possible exposure with no regard for radiation as a beneficial agent," says Luckey, "Those who believe the Linear No Threshold (LNT) dogma have no concept about any benefits from ionizing radiation. Many radiobiologists get paid to protect us from negligible amounts of ionizing radiation. Our major concern is health."

Professor André Maïsseu, the journal's Editor-in-Chief, and President of the World Council of Nuclear Workers WONUC) says: "This is a very bright, interesting and important paper about the real effects of ionizing radiation - radioactivity - on humans, mammals and biotopes." He adds that, the paper, "is part of the movement we - nuclear workers - promoting good science and fighting obscurantism in this scientific field.

Source: Inderscience Publishers


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Citation: Radiation for health (2008, June 19) retrieved 21 September 2019 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2008-06-health.html
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Jun 19, 2008
This effect (radiation hormesis) is very controversial, some experiments in laboratories do show small benefit but until there are large scale long duration studies which demonstrate the effect beyond any doubt it is definitely better to assume that all damage rises cancer risk no matter how small (LNT).

Besides even if there is some benefit it would be hard to apply such therapy due to the fact that and patient who did get cancer later in life would automatically sue the doctor who prescribed it.

Jun 19, 2008
This effect (radiation hormesis) is very controversial, some experiments in laboratories do show small benefit but until there are large scale long duration studies which demonstrate the effect beyond any doubt it is definitely better to assume that all damage rises cancer risk no matter how small (LNT).

Besides even if there is some benefit it would be hard to apply such therapy due to the fact that and patient who did get cancer later in life would automatically sue the doctor who prescribed it.

There are many human epidemiological studies (NOT laboratory) which show clear and significant benefits to higher background radiation for. Benefits are 50±% reductions in all cancers except in children where leukemia is increased.

Jun 19, 2008
I seem to remember a story about the mules that survived some of the early atom bomb tests in Nevada. The animals were penned at various distances from the blast to help in research on radiation effects. It seems that the mules that survived the damage of the initial dosages actually survived to live much longer than unexposed mules. They eventually were transported to Tennessee and lived quite a while, through the 1970's, as I recall.
Can anyone offer corroboration?

Jun 19, 2008
It kind of makes sense. It's a fact that we are all subject to certain levels of background radiation all our lives, so it's reasonable that evolution would have produced organisms that are maximally able to thrive in this environment. And since evolution is parsimonious, if there's some way to derive a net benefit from the radiation, it'll be taken advantage of.

Jun 19, 2008
Will this raise the property values of homes near nuclear plants? We better get in while they're cheap!

Jun 19, 2008
Will this raise the property values of homes near nuclear plants? We better get in while they're cheap!


Sorry to intrude on your fantasy but people who live near coal plants receive a higher dose than those who live near nuclear plants. Both are utterly negligible when compared to exposure from your dentist's x-ray or from radon in the surroundings.

Jun 19, 2008
...it is definitely better to assume that all damage rises cancer risk no matter how small (LNT).


Despite the fact that we know beyond any shadow of a doubt that the LNT model vastly overestimates the cancer risk at low exposures it's still better to use the LNT model?

That makes no sense unless you're in the bussiness of renovating people's homes to get rid of radon.

Jun 19, 2008
Unless you're a smoker or live over an old coal mine don't worry about radiation in your home. There are also a few granite rich areas with ultrahigh radon soil levels. Smoking seems to be the activity that traps the alpha emitters in folk's lungs leading to higher cancer risk. Of course smoking by itself causes cancer. So quit smoking and save money on cigs and radon abatement both.

Jun 19, 2008
Well that settles it. I knew there was a reason I ate those smoke detectors.

Jun 20, 2008
All radiation is: electrons first, (spin, speed, timing, mass), and photons second. The net effect is heat energy within the cell. We have caused enough damage due to lack of data and blundering. Learn first. measure second. Careful!


You're not making any sense. You forgot about ubiquitous alphas(helium-4 nuclei) and fairly common beta (positron). Cosmic rays are mostly high energy protons.

The ionizing effects of radiation are of interest here. An instantaneous dose high enough to kill you is only enough to heat your tissues a few thousandths of a kelvin. It's not heat that kills the cell, it is extensive DNA breaks that cannot be repaired, denatured proteins and the like.

Jun 22, 2008
...it is definitely better to assume that all damage rises cancer risk no matter how small (LNT).


Despite the fact that we know beyond any shadow of a doubt that the LNT model vastly overestimates the cancer risk at low exposures it's still better to use the LNT model?


Thats the problem we don't know beyond reasonable doubt. Besides you are free to irradiate yourself if you so desire but to tell general public that they should do so requires VERY strong evidence.

Just think what the damage could be if after 10 years new study surfaced showing some unanticipated complications and a wave of cancer. We need to be REALLY sure.

Also benefits probably don't outweigh the risks as people in regions with higher background radiation aren't known for significantly longer lifespan.

Lastly where is the limit of safe radiation? It probably varies wildly from human to human.

Jun 22, 2008
And theres one more very important thing, to judge whether radiation is safe you also have to monitor people's offspring as it might be safe for somatic cells and harmful to germ cells.

Jun 23, 2008
I think one other question that needs to be answered is what type of radiation is most effective. Alpha? Beta? Gamma?

Jun 23, 2008
I think one other question that needs to be answered is what type of radiation is most effective. Alpha? Beta? Gamma?


Most importantly, which one will give me superpowers?

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