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Epidemiologic studies on workers exposed to low doses of ionizing radiation

Journal title : Archives des Maladies Professionnelles et de Médecine du Travail
Volume : 66
issue : 2
Pagination : 150-164
Publication date : 01/04/2005

Document type > *Article de revue

Keywords > cosmic radiation, epidemiological data, ionizing radiations, radiation dose, worker

Research Unit > IRSN/DRPH

Authors > TELLE-LAMBERTON Maylis

Publication Date > 01/04/2005


A review of epidemiological studies on workers exposed to low doses of ionizing radiation is proposed. Method: Workers included are radiologists and radiological technologists, miners, air flight attendants and nuclear industry workers. Studies were listed through medline data base (National Library of Medicine) without restriction on date of publication. Results: Radiologists and radiological technologists were among the first to be occupationally exposed to ionizing radiation. Excesses of leukemia, lung and skin cancer were observed for older registration years. For more recent years, epidemiological data lack sufficient statistical power to conclude. Among uranium miners, the lung cancer dose-effect relationship is well established. Effect modifiers have also been observed: decreases in the effect with time since exposure and age at exposure. An increase with the fractionation of dose is also strongly suspected. Excesses of malignant melanomas and breast cancers were observed among airflight attendants. This population is exposed to cosmic radiation, irregular working schedule and frequent jetlags. It is difficult to relate these excesses to these different factors though life-style or reproductive life factors seem to be insufficient to explain excesses of such magnitude. Finally, among nuclear workers, pathologies with more frequent dose-effect relationships are: leukemia except chronic lymphoid leukemia and multiple myeloma, the order of magnitude of excess relative risk being 2 and 4 per Sievert respectively. Lung cancer is also suspected but caution should be taken on potential confusion factors (internal radiation and other occupational factors particularly). Conclusion: This review highlights the importance of results obtained from occupational ionising radiation epidemiology. Studies should continue in order to confirm observed dose-effect relationships and better understand some of the excesses observed. It confirms the need for systematic epidemiological surveillance and post-occupational health monitoring of populations concerned
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