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Is cancer risk of radiation workers larger than expected?
  1. P Jacob1,
  2. W Rühm1,
  3. L Walsh2,
  4. M Blettner3,
  5. G Hammer3,
  6. H Zeeb3
  1. 1
    Hemholtz Zentrum München, Institute of Radiation Protection, Neuherberg, Germany
  2. 2
    Federal Office for Radiation Protection, Department of Radiation Protection and Health, Oberschleißheim, Germany
  3. 3
    Johannes Gutenberg – University Mainz, Institute of Medical Biostatistics, Epidemiology and Informatics, Mainz, Germany
  1. Correspondence to P Jacob, Hemholtz Zentrum München, Institute of Radiation Protection, D-85764 Neuherberg, Germany; Jacob{at}


Occupational exposures to ionising radiation mainly occur at low-dose rates and may accumulate effective doses of up to several hundred milligray.

The objective of the present study is to evaluate the evidence of cancer risks from such low-dose-rate, moderate-dose (LDRMD) exposures.

Our literature search for primary epidemiological studies on cancer incidence and mortality risks from LDRMD exposures included publications from 2002 to 2007, and an update of the UK National Registry for Radiation Workers study. For each (LDRMD) study we calculated the risk for the same types of cancer among the atomic bomb survivors with the same gender proportion and matched quantities for dose, mean age attained and mean age at exposure. A combined estimator of the ratio of the excess relative risk per dose from the LDRMD study to the corresponding value for the atomic bomb survivors was 1.21 (90% CI 0.51 to 1.90).

The present analysis does not confirm that the cancer risk per dose for LDRMD exposures is lower than for the atomic bomb survivors. This result challenges the cancer risk values currently assumed for occupational exposures.

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  • See Editorial, p 785

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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