Risk of Exposure to Radon

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There is strong evidence that exposure to radon can cause lung cancer. Radon exposure is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking.

Smokers are more at risk from radon exposure than non-smokers. A lifetime of exposure to radon at 100 Bq/m3 increases the risk of lung cancer by 0.1% for non-smokers, and 2% for smokers.

More precisely, for an average radon concentration of 100 Bq/m3, the lifetime risk of lung cancer for non-smokers is 0.5% (compared with a risk of 0.4% in the absence of radon). For lifelong smokers, the risk is 12% (compared with a risk of 10% in the absence of radon).

From the WHO Factsheet on Indoor Radon:

"Radon is the most important cause of lung cancer after smoking. It is estimated that radon causes between 3–14% of all lung cancers in a country, depending on the average radon level and the smoking prevalence in a country.”
“… the risk of lung cancer increases … with increasing radon exposure.”
The United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) is the leading international body on radiation levels and effects. Visit the UNSCEAR website or read the UNEP report on "Radiation Effects and Sources" based on UNSCEAR work to learn more

Quotes from ICRP Publications

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Lung Cancer: Publication 115 paragraph 55

… There is compelling evidence from cohort studies of underground miners and from case–control studies of residential radon exposures that radon and its progeny can cause lung cancer…

… The cumulative risk of lung cancer up to 75 years of age for lifelong non-smokers is estimated to be 0.4%, 0.5%, and 0.7% for radon activity concentrations of 0, 100, and 400 Bq/m3, respectively…

…The cumulative risks of lung cancer for lifelong smokers by 75 years of age are close to 10%, 12%, and 16% for radon activity concentrations of 0, 100, and 400 Bq/m3, respectively…

… Cigarette smoking remains the most important cause of lung cancer…

Other Cancers: Publication 115 paragraph 39

… review of the available epidemiological evidence shows no consistent evidence for an association between radon concentration and cancer, other than lung cancer.

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