Risk of Leukemia Increased With Prolonged Exposure to Low-Dose Radiation

Dr. Klervi Leraud of the Radiobiology and Epidemiology Department at Fontenay-aux-Roses in Cedex, France and colleagues reported that healthcare workers exposed to low-dose radiation over a long period of time are at higher risk of getting leukemia. This long-term study involves more than 300,000 nuclear energy workers from the United States, United Kingdom, and France. This study was recently published last month in The Lancet Haematology.

Dr. Klervi Leraud and colleagues conducted the study on 308,297 nuclear energy workers. Their radiation exposures were followed up on and monitored. All the nuclear energy workers had worked or were a member of the Departments of Energy and Defense in the United States, National Registry for Radiation Workers in the United Kingdom or the French Atomic Energy Commission for at least 1 year. These workers were monitored for an average of 27 years. Data monitored include health and exposure status from the beginning to the middle of 2000. Dr. Klervi Leraud and colleagues searched specifically for deaths from lymphoma or leukemia only among the nuclear energy workers.

At the end of follow-up, approximately 22% of the workers had died. There were 814 deaths caused by lymphoma and 531 deaths caused by leukemia. The study revealed that the higher the cumulative dose of radiation exposure, the higher the risk of dying from certain types of leukemia. Dr. Klervi Leraud and colleagues calculated that a worker is at risk of leukemia 3 times more for each gray (1,000 mGy) of total radiation exposure. Among the types of leukemia, chronic myeloid leukemia has the highest risk with an increase of 10.45-fold risk per gray. Further details on the results of the study can be found here.

Dr. Maria Blettner of University Medical Center in Mainz, Germany, uninvolved in the study, stated that this study summarizes the findings of other studies. She was unsure whether each individual’s sensitivity to radiation exposure could actually play a role in an increased risk of leukemia. She added that currently there are no tests that can prove whether a certain individual is more radio-sensitive than the others.


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