Effects of Low Level Radiation-What's New?

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A comprehensive review of the effects of exposure to low levels of ionizing radiation, BEIR VII-Phase 2: Health Risks From Exposure to Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation, was published in 2006. The BEIR (Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation) reports are a series of publications by the National Academy of Sciences. The last BEIR report on the effects of low level radiation, BEIR V, was published in 1990. To update the risk estimates for exposure to low levels of ionizing radiation, the BEIR committee reviewed recent epidemiologic studies of the atomic bomb survivors, as well as recent studies of populations exposed to radiation from diagnostic and therapeutic medical studies, from occupational exposures and from exposure due to releases of radioactive materials into the environment. Additional increasingly sophisticated epidemiologic studies continue to be published. BEIR VII reconfirmed that the linear no threshold model is the most practical model to estimate radiation risks, especially for radiation protection purposes. The updated risk estimates have not changed significantly from the BEIR V estimates, but the confidence intervals have narrowed as the result of the availability of additional data. The effects of low doses of radiation should be of particular interest to medical professionals because radiation exposure from diagnostic medical studies is, by far, the largest source of radiation exposure from human activity. One recommendation of the BEIR VII report is to perform epidemiologic studies of patients, especially children, who have been exposed to radiation as part of their care. A large, sophisticated epidemiologic study will likely be able to detect an increase in cancer risk. The purpose of this article is to highlight the contents of this important publication with particular emphasis on what is new.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)392-402
Number of pages11
JournalSeminars in Nuclear Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2008


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