U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights

No Detectable Increase in Cancer Mortality in Workers Exposed to Low Doses of Radiation
Published: August 01, 2011
Posted: November 02, 2011

DOE's Low Dose Radiation Research Program has demonstrated that biological responses to high and low doses of radiation are both qualitatively and quantitatively different. These findings suggest it is important to study low-dose exposed populations to understand radiation risks to workers and the public. New analyses were recently completed of mortality data for 46,970 workers—including 5,801 involved in radiation activities—employed from 1948-1999 at Rocketdyne (Atomics International). This worker population is unique in that lifetime occupational doses from all places of employment were sought, updated, and incorporated into the analyses. The workers were followed for up to 60 years. For all cancers excluding leukemia, the relative risk at 100 mSv (10 rads) was estimated to be 0.98 (95% CI 0.82-1.17), and for all leukemia other than CLL, it was 1.06 (95% CI 0.50-2.23). Uranium was the primary radionuclide contributing to internal exposures. This long-term followup has not shown significant excesses of cancers or nonmalignant diseases among the workers studied. Larger combined studies of early workers in the United States using similar methodologies may further refine and clarify radiation risks after protracted exposures.

Reference: Boice, J. D., Jr., S. S. Cohen, M. T. Mumma, E. D. Ellis, K. F. Eckerman, R. W. Leggett, B. B. Boecker, A. B. Brill, and B. E. Henderson. 2011. "Updated Mortality Analysis of Radiation Workers at Rocketdyne (Atomics International), 1948-2008," Radiation Research 176(2), 244-258. (DOI: 10.1667/RR2487.1) (Reference link)

Contact: Noelle Metting, SC-23.2, (301) 903-8309
Topic Areas:

  • Legacy: Low Dose Radiation, Radiobiology

Division: SC-23.2 Biological Systems Science Division, BER


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