Low dose radiation and health

March 16, 2016

Researchers in Europe have reviewed cancer rates among people in parts of the world where natural background radiation is higher than average and found that incidence is not as high as one might guess. The findings, published in the International Journal of Low Radiation suggests that science ought to take a second look at studies that correlate low levels of radiation exposure with detrimental health effects.

Ludwik Dobrzyński of the National Centre for Nuclear Research (NCBJ) in Otwock-Świerk, Poland and colleagues in Poland and Germany, explain that natural background ionizing radiation is ubiquitous. We are all constantly exposed to radioactivity literally from the rocks beneath our feet, the air we breathe and the cosmic rays that have many different sources in space and bathe our planet. Moreover, life on earth evolved in this and has many mechanisms to repair the damage caused by exposure and protect us from its otherwise harmful effects.

While exposure to high levels of radiation is well documented as causing health problems from lethal radiation sickness to cancer, the low levels of background radiation to which we are constantly exposed have never been shown unequivocally to cause any illness, cancer other otherwise, despite tabloid scaremongering. Indeed, there are numerous studies from around the world that suggest that background radiation has to some degree a protective effect against the other causes of cancer. The team's review of these and other studies in contrast to the received wisdom suggests that are commonly lower in regions where exposure to slightly higher doses of background radiation than to those areas with average low dose natural exposure.

"The level of natural background radiation on Earth varies considerably by even two orders of magnitude from place to place with the world average annual effective dose being about 2.5 milliSieverts," the team explains. In Ramsar, Iran, it is several hundred milliSieverts per year. The team's review of the available research using Bayesian statistics to analyze the data suggests that, "Risks of mortality from low-doses and low dose-rates, appear not to exist or to be much lower than the effects normally assumed, when assessed alone by epidemiological methods."

Explore further: Does radiation from X-rays and CT scans really cause cancer?

More information: Dobrzyski, L., Fornalski, K.W. and Feinendegen, L.E. 'The human cancer in high natural background radiation areas', Int. J. Low Radiation, Vol. 10, No. 2, pp.143-154.

Related Stories

Does radiation from X-rays and CT scans really cause cancer?

June 30, 2015
In recent years, there has been widespread media coverage of studies purporting to show that radiation from X-rays, CT scans and other medical imaging causes cancer.

No proof that radiation from X rays and CT scans causes cancer

February 3, 2016
The widespread belief that radiation from X rays, CT scans and other medical imaging can cause cancer is based on an unproven, decades-old theoretical model, according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical ...

Study provides more precise estimates of cancer risks associated with low level radiation

October 21, 2015
More precise estimates of cancer risks associated with prolonged, low level exposure to ionising radiation among nuclear industry workers are published by The BMJ today.

Targeted radiation shows promise in early breast cancer

March 10, 2016
(HealthDay)—For women with early-stage breast cancer, targeted doses of radiation therapy may be as effective as standard radiation treatment of the entire breast, according to research presented at the European Breast ...

'Acceptable risk' is a better way to think about radiation exposure in Fukushima

March 15, 2016
On March 11, 2011, the Fukushima Prefecture of Japan experienced multiple nuclear reactor meltdowns as a consequence of an earthquake and a subsequent tsunami. The meltdowns resulted in the release of radioactivity into the ...

Recommended for you

Alternative splicing, an important mechanism for cancer

September 22, 2017
Cancer, which is one of the leading causes of death worldwide, arises from the disruption of essential mechanisms of the normal cell life cycle, such as replication control, DNA repair and cell death. Thanks to the advances ...

'Labyrinth' chip could help monitor aggressive cancer stem cells

September 21, 2017
Inspired by the Labyrinth of Greek mythology, a new chip etched with fluid channels sends blood samples through a hydrodynamic maze to separate out rare circulating cancer cells into a relatively clean stream for analysis. ...

Drug combination may improve impact of immunotherapy in head and neck cancer

September 21, 2017
Checkpoint inhibitor-based immunotherapy has been shown to be very effective in recurrent and metastatic head and neck cancer but only in a minority of patients. University of California San Diego School of Medicine researchers ...

Whole food diet may help prevent colon cancer, other chronic conditions

September 21, 2017
A diet that includes plenty of colorful vegetables and fruits may contain compounds that can stop colon cancer and inflammatory bowel diseases in pigs, according to an international team of researchers. Understanding how ...

New kinase detection method helps identify targets for developing cancer drugs

September 21, 2017
Purdue University researchers have developed a high-throughput method for matching kinases to the proteins they phosphorylate, speeding the ability to identify multiple potential cancer drug targets.

Poliovirus therapy induces immune responses against cancer

September 20, 2017
An investigational therapy using modified poliovirus to attack cancer tumors appears to unleash the body's own capacity to fight malignancies by activating an inflammation process that counter's the ability of cancer cells ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.