Background: The detrimental health effects associated with the receipt of moderate (0.1–1 Gy) and high (>1 Gy) acute doses of sparsely ionising radiation are well established from human epidemiological studies. There is accumulating direct evidence of excess risk of cancer in a number of populations exposed at lower acute doses or doses received over a protracted period. There is evidence that relative risks are generally higher after radiation exposures in utero or in childhood.
Methods and findings: We reviewed and summarised evidence from 60 studies of cancer or benign neoplasms following low- or moderate-level exposure in utero or in childhood from medical and environmental sources. In most of the populations studied the exposure was predominantly to sparsely ionising radiation, such as X-rays and gamma-rays. There were significant (p < 0.001) excess risks for all cancers, and particularly large excess relative risks were observed for brain/CNS tumours, thyroid cancer (including nodules) and leukaemia.
Conclusions: Overall, the totality of this large body of data relating to in utero and childhood exposure provides support for the existence of excess cancer and benign neoplasm risk associated with radiation doses < 0.1 Gy, and for certain groups exposed to natural background radiation, to fallout and medical X-rays in utero, at about 0.02 Gy.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information: This work was supported by the Intramural Research Program of the National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics. The authors are grateful for the detailed and helpful comments of Dr Jay Lubin, also for those of the four referees.
The authors declare that they have no known competing financial
interests or personal relationships that could have appeared to influence
the work reported in this paper.
Open Access: This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
Publisher Copyright: Published by Elsevier Ltd.
Citation: Little, Mark P., et al. "Review of the risk of cancer following low and moderate doses of sparsely ionising radiation received in early life in groups with individually estimated doses." Environment international 159 (2022): 106983.
- Cancer risk
- In utero