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Discovering the causes of cancer and the means of prevention

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Title: Occupational and environmental radiation and cancer.
Authors: Boice JD Jr,  Lubin JH
Journal: Cancer Causes Control
Date: 1997 May
Branches: BB
PubMed ID: 9498895
PMC ID: not available
Abstract: Epidemiologic evidence on the relation between occupational and environmental radiation and cancer is reviewed. Studies of pioneering radiation workers, underground miners, and radium dial painters revealed excess cancer deaths and contributed to the setting of radiation protection standards and to theories of carcinogenesis. Occupational exposures today are generally much lower than in the past, thus any associated increases in cancer will be difficult to detect. Pooling investigations of these more recently exposed workers, however, has the potential to validate current estimates of risk used in radiation protection. New information on the effects of chronic radiation exposure also may come from studies in the former Soviet Union of Chernobyl clean-up workers and of workers at the Mayak nuclear facilities. Studies of environmental radiation exposures, other than radon, are largely inconclusive, due mainly to the difficulties in detecting the low risks associated with low dose exposures. Thyroid cancer, however, has been linked to environmental radiation from the Chernobyl accident and from nuclear weapons tests. Low-level radiation released during normal operations at nuclear plants has not been found to increase cancer rates in surrounding populations. Radon, a human carcinogen, is the most ubiquitous exposure to human populations; remediating high residential-radon levels is recommended, recognizing that the exposure can never be removed completely because it occurs naturally.