News | January 08, 2009

Higher Dose Exposure Related to Cancer Risks for Radiation Workers

January 8, 2009 - The risk of developing cancer among radiation workers increases with the dose of ionizing radiation they are exposed to, according to a study by the Health Protection Agency published today in the British Journal of Cancer.

The cancer risks observed in the study are consistent with the international scientific consensus on radiation protection.

The study noted a “healthy worker effect” in studies of many other occupational groups, in which the overall mortality in the UK’s 175,000 radiation workers is lower than that in the general population. The “healthy worker effect” argument states that the exposed group represents a healthier subpopulation because of biases in the selection process that qualify them for their work. It also might mean that the control group is not as healthy because of selection biases in their lifestyles.**

"This is a continuation of a study started in 1976 and it provides reliable information on the health of people working with ionizing radiation. The results confirm the cancer risk estimates observed in other studies even though, overall, radiation workers have lower cancer risks than the general population," said Colin Muirhead, M.D., from the Health Protection Agency.


* Muirhead CR, O'Hagan JA, Haylock RGE, Phillipson MA, Willcock T, Berridge GLC, Zhang W (2009) Mortality and cancer incidence following occupational radiation exposure: 3rd analysis of the National Registry for Radiation Workers. British Journal of Cancer (2009), Volume 100, Issue 1, pages 206-212.

** The “Healthy Worker Effect”: Science or Prejudice?, Vol. 229 No. 1, Wagner LK, PhD, Department of Radiology, University of Texas-Houston Medical School.

*** Bunch KJ, Muirhead CR, Draper GJ, Hunter N, Kendall GM, O'Hagan JA, Phillipson MA, Vincent TJ, Zhang W. Cancer in the offspring of female radiation workers: a record linkage study. British Journal of Cancer (2009), Volume 100, Issue 1, pages 213-218.

Source: The British Journal of Cancer

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