Oxford review: Radiation low on list of health harms

Low-level radiation exposure is less harmful to health than other modern lifestyle risks, according to research published on 13 September in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

A team of researchers from the University of Oxford gathered evidence on health risks from low-level ionizing radiation and held a one-day workshop to develop a consensus on a series of statements that describe the health effects of exposure to low-level radiation.

The statements cover a series of radiation-related issues, such as environmental exposure to radon, the conclusions of the Japanese study of atomic bomb survivors, and what's currently known about the health effects of exposure to both high and low doses of radiation.

The group found the overall risk to human health from low-level radiation exposure is small, especially when compared with general risks such as obesity, smoking, and air pollution.

For example, if 100 people were each briefly exposed to 100 mSv of radiation, one of them on average would be expected to develop a radiation-induced cancer over a lifetime, while 42 of them would be expected to develop cancer from other causes, according to a team led by Dr. Angela McLean. As context, radiation dose from a spine CT is 10 mSv, and the average dose from natural background radiation in the U.K. is 2.3 mSv each year.

With respect to medical radiation, the group noted that previous studies have found links in risk between leukemia and brain cancer in children who received CT scans, but there have been confounding factors. The group recommended that "the health benefits of radiation use in medicine must outweigh any radiation exposure risks."

McLean and colleagues plan to conduct further research to better understand the genetic healthcare implications of radiation exposure and the biological basis of the damage from radiation to DNA and cells, Oxford said in a statement.

Page 1 of 1240
Next Page