Does radiation really cause cancer? Conversation among professionals
One of the privileges of being a long time pronuclear activist on the Internet – an activity that I have been enjoying since “atomicrod” started posting in USENET discussion groups in the early 1990s – is that I often see communications between talented, highly qualified professionals that include information that is not well distributed in public.
The information is not secret, but sometimes people who really understand a technical topic are not predisposed to promote their knowledge outside of a small circle of colleagues. When they choose to publish, it is often in densely worded papers that show up in journals that are only available in good university libraries.
Recently, two of my internet colleagues shared some thoughts on the health effects of radiation. With permission, I decided to share them with you.
In the conversation below, Dr. George Stanford is a sodium cooled fast reactor specialist who earned his PhD in experimental nuclear physics from Yale University and then spent his career at Argonne National Laboratory. Dr. Jerry Cuttler earned his DSc in Nuclear Sciences in 1971 from the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology. He has spent the past 15+ years studying the health effects of low and moderate level radiation.
Dr. Stanford: You’re right, of course, about the benefits of low-level radiation. However, point (2) was in the context of a massive, near-lethal dose. Am I not correct in thinking that there is a small chance that a survivor might develop cancer later as a result? I have a male friend now in his 80s who as a teenager was given a truly outrageous, very extensive series of radiation doses to treat acne, and he developed breast cancer 5 or 10 years ago. I know that one case proves nothing, but perhaps one can legitimately wonder.
(On the other hand, I have another acquaintance who received a one-time dose of ~190 rem [1.9 Sv] in the late 1950s, and when I saw him a year or two ago, he was a very healthy 90-year-old.)
Dr. Cuttler: Hi George
Almost all DNA alterations are spontaneous/endogenous. Potential ones are mostly prevented by anti-oxidants and other defences. DNA alterations are mostly repaired by defences. Nearly all cells with DNA alterations that were not repaired commit suicide or are killed by various defences. Mutated cells that eventually develop into cancer cells are mostly killed by the immune system.
Radiation’s principal effect is on the defences. Low radiation doses/levels stimulate all the defences reducing the incidence of cancer. High doses/levels have the opposite effect.
While radiation alters DNA, this effect is usually small compared to the spontaneous rate of DNA alterations. Let’s consider whether “there is a small chance” that a cancer may develop due to DNA altered by a near-lethal dose of radiation.
Wade Allison points out that radiation treatments of tumours and post-surgical follow-up radiation treatments irradiate large amounts of healthy tissue (organs too) at 200 rad each day for 4 weeks. That amounts to 200 x 5 x 4 = 4000 rad in a month. There are many cells in this healthy tissue (10^9 per gram), and Allison says that these tissues recover. These irradiated areas do not become cancer ridden.
(Note: Dr. Cuttler is Canadian. His version of the English language includes slightly different ways to spell words like defenses and tumors.)
Dr. Stanford: Thanks, Jerry.
But this is the first time I have seen the assertion that there is never a long-term consequence from a near-lethal dose — if that’s what you’re saying. I would think it would be hard to substantiate, since people who need radiation treatments tend to be on in years, and probably die of something else before any induced cancer would have a chance to develop.
In any event, I suspect that, in trying to inform people about the (lack of) consequences of Fukushima, a claim that there is no such thing as a harmful, survivable dose would cause the message to be tuned out completely.
Dr. Cuttler: Hi George,
I tried to be clear, but perhaps I wasn’t. So I’ll try again. I did not say that “there is never a long-term consequence from a near lethal dose.”
The remark, “However, point (2) was in the context of a massive, near-lethal dose. Am I not correct in thinking that there is a small chance that a survivor might develop cancer later as a result?” links ionizing radiation to an increased risk of cancer. This is what Hermann Muller tried to do with his fruit fly studies and what he said in his Nobel Prize speech. This is what all the anti-nuclear folks do. They associate nuclear radiation with cancer, and then campaign to shut down nuclear energy plants and block construction of new plants.
I tried to point out that radiation has an indirect effect on cancer incidence. The cancer starts with the very high rate of DNA alteration, which is almost totally spontaneous/endogenous (see attached paper). Average, healthy people have very powerful defences that: 1) prevent DNA damage, 2) repair DNA damage and 3) remove damaged or mutated cells, including cancer cells. Cancer disease develops when our defences fail to prevent it. The figure below shows that the effectiveness of our defences weakens with increasing age.
Whole-body radiation’s principal effect is on our defences; radiation modulates the activities of our defences. Low radiation doses/levels stimulate all the defences reducing the incidence of cancer. High doses/levels have the opposite effect.
Wade Allison is an expert on medical radiation physics. His 2009 book “Radiation and Reason” has very important factual information on “A Single Dose of Radiation” (Chapter 6) and “Multiple Doses of Radiation” (Chapter 7). In the discussion on cancer radiation therapy, he points out that the standard treatment also irradiates healthy tissue that surrounds cancerous tumours. This tissue receives many near-lethal acute dose fractions, e.g., breast cancer: 16 fractions of 2.7 Gy (42.5 Gy); prostate cancer: 39 fractions of 2 Gy (78 Gy). Each fraction is delivered 5 times per week. The gap of one day allows repair and healing of healthy tissue to occur between each dose fraction.
The irradiated healthy tissue recovers its function, but there is some permanent damaged in the form of scarring. In a study of 20,871 breast cancer patients, there was a significant increase in the incidence of death from cardiac disease, after 15 or more years, in women who received radiotherapy to the left breast, compared with those who received it to the right breast.
“Radiation doses used in radiotherapy are high, and it is to be expected that, in addition to treating the cancer concerned, the radiation itself should occasionally initiate new disease. In principle, sufficient data are available to measure this, because the number of treated patients is very large. However, confounding effects make such studies difficult.” While it could be argued that this radiation damage could lead eventually to cancer, there is no solid evidence that this actually happens. This is why I stated below that these irradiated areas do not become cancer ridden.
So I come back to what Myron Pollycove explained to me: “Radiation acts on our defences,” which prevent cancer.
If a massive, near-lethal dose is delivered to the whole body, we are discussing acute radiation syndrome, not cancer. If you consider the 134 Chernobyl firefighters who were hospitalized for ARS, 28 died within months and 106 recovered. During the subsequent ~20 years, approximately 20 of these 106 people died. Jaworowski pointed out that this is in line with the normal incidence of mortality of these workers, about 1% per year. The causes of death were due mostly to lifestyle illnesses. There were one or two cancer cases, but it is possible they could have been caused by factors other than the radiation exposure 20 years ago.
To summarize, there is an enormous amount of data from cancer patients who received radiotherapy. There are long-term consequences—scarring. Where is the data for new cancers?
Update: The above post was updated on January 20, 2012 by providing the full name for the second scientist involved in the discussion after receiving his permission.
With the data now available from radiation therapy for cancer, surely there is enough evidence to refute once and for all the LNT hypothesis. Why is this being ignored?
Unfortunately this is where Catch-22 cuts in because no study can prove the absence of an effect. All that can be asserted is that if any excess cancer risk due to low dose radiation, the risk is too small to be detected by the methods used. It’s this little shred of uncertainty that is at the root of the regulatory paralysis that keeps LNT alive.
All that can be asserted is that if any excess cancer risk due to low dose radiation, the risk is too small to be detected by the methods used.
That is why the accusation that radiation causes cancer is such an effectively chosen argument by the antinuclear establishment. There is no way to relate any particular cancer to any particular influence. All one can do is to study a large enough population that has been exposed to enough radiation to make a difference in long term statistics.
That is how we eventually managed to prove to most reasonable people that there is a tie between smoking cigarettes or consuming copious quantities of alcohol to the probability of contracting cancer. Even that tie is tenuous and has a lot to do with doses and dose rates.
With radiation, the most cited study is the Life Span Study of the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The only portions of that population that show an overall elevation in their risk of cancer are those that received very high, very brief doses at rates that overwhelmed their defenses. There is no evidence of an increase in the rate of cancer for complete organisms due to moderate or low dose rates that produce DNA damage effects that are several orders of magnitude below all other naturally occurring influences that produce similar DNA damage.
Of course, I am sure that Applebaum would disagree and point to some carefully selected segment of the LSS population that seems to show elevated risk of a particular type of cancer, but searching for such an effect is actually statistical manipulation because it slices an existing data set to find a pre-determined result that the researcher “just knows” has to exist somewhere in that set.
I agree in general, however what I wrote still stands – no study can prove the absence of an effect, and that unfortunately is something we have to deal with. Nevertheless as I also wrote below there is sufficient evidence that high exposure to ionizing radiation increases the chance that one will get cancer, so the potential effect cannot be dismissed out of hand.
If you deliver a dose of 2 Gy within 5 minutes in a relative small volume, you can’t compare this with the same dose in a year (for instance a cell that “renews” after, let’s say 8 hours. A high dose during this cell cycle is uncomparable to “higher background radiation” in Iran). Examples: prostate and H&N cancers with aggresiv metastasis exactly on the edge of the treated volume. A “low” dose in a short period can be very harmfull…
Stumbled across this:
“Even scientists who advocate the therapeutic use of radon haven’t studied how it works in Montana’s mines. Nevertheless, medical studies conducted in Europe, where radon spas have been popular destinations for more than a century, have shown beneficial health effects of radon treatments for various inflammatory joint diseases, including rheumatism and arthritis.”
I’m awaiting Bob Applebaum’s response. I am going to guess it will occur sometime within the next 2 days.
When I saw that the comment # had jumped by about 10 within a few hours, I knew who had shown up. It took a few more hours than my 2 day estimate, though.
LNT is the cornerstone of the whole antinuclear edifice. Crack it, and their whole rotten structure comes down.
Unfortunately there is a large population of squatters living inside who won’t take lightly to being evicted (unemployed).
We still need to address their economic and proliferation arguments.
You know, nuclear energy shouldn’t have to chase down this rabbit hole about how little radiation it takes to sting a blood cell to justify using it. There is natural arsenic in peaches and apples in tiny traces that, yes, must impact your health in the most minute degree, but are we going to shutdown orchards because there’s a tiny trace of anything that’s not good for you in the produce they grow? Better — to hone in the relative point to the public, let’s regulate the health effects traces of bad elements in “natural” food to the same standards as we demand of radiation’s equivalent health effect. Yea. Mr and Mrs Layperson can relate to that, no PhD required!
I’d much rather do it the other way round, James – regulate nuclear power to the degree we regulate other activities. Of course for the sake of illustration, imagining (for example) the regulation of long-distance haulage to the standards of nuclear power is an interesting thought experiment.
(At the risk of dragging myself off-topic, “Yes Vermont Yankee” has a piece on how decommissioning is only an economic benefit to long-distance hauliers – but it strikes me that they are probably incurring more risk than the entire operation of the nuclear plant did).
How about requiring coal plants to maintain strict controls over the NORM that remains in coal ash. Or rules that force natural gas suppliers to store their product long enough to allow for any radon to decay away.
The question asked in the lead post is: Does [ionizing] radiation really cause cancer? The answer to this is that it increases the risk of cancer, and this is the crux of the problem. It cannot be asserted that a dose of x amount of ionizing radiation will cause cancer at confidence level >5-sigma, however clearly there is data that shows that the incidence of cancer does increase after significant exposure. And yes a quick search with Google turns up plenty of research that shows that there is evidence of radiotherapy induced cancers although the risk seems well balanced out by the benefits.
Here is no universally agreed on mechanism for radiation induced cancers, thus the only reliable measure of risk at this point is a product of statistics, and unfortunately in this case, it is a bit of a blunt instrument. This is because it is difficult to control for other confounding variables, especially individual sensitivity, which is poorly understood.
Therefore be must be careful not to fall into the same type of thinking that drives the LNT hypothesis, but in the other direction. While some individuals may get away scott-free after a high dose exposure, the evidence strongly suggests that some will develop cancers that can be rationally attributed to the same, and this latter group might well be the majority. Thus at this point I do not think it helpful to question the existence of a carcinogenic effect from exposure to ionizing radiation, although the degree of the effect can certainly be.
I have wondered just how much the fear of radiation is due to the wording of a simple sentence.
Radiation can cause cancer.
Radiation causes cancer.
This second sentence might be a major reason why there is such a demand for absolute safety in reactors.
Have a read of the Nuclear Energy and Health paper and pdf, available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2664640/pdf/drp-07-052.pdf
Energy needs worldwide are expected to increase for the foreseeable future, but fuel supplies are limited. Nuclear reactors could supply much of the energy demand in a safe, sustainable manner were it not for fear of potential releases of radioactivity. Such releases would likely deliver a low dose or dose rate of radiation, within the range of naturally occurring radiation, to which life is already accustomed. The key areas of concern are discussed. Studies of actual health effects, especially thyroid cancers, following exposures are assessed. Radiation hormesis is explained, pointing out that beneficial effects are expected following a low dose or dose rate because protective responses against stresses are stimulated. The notions that no amount of radiation is small enough to be harmless and that a nuclear accident could kill hundreds of thousands are challenged in light of experience: more than a century with radiation and six decades with reactors. If nuclear energy is to play a significant role in meeting future needs, regulatory authorities must examine the scientific evidence and communicate the real health effects of nuclear radiation. Negative images and implications of health risks derived by unscientific extrapolations of harmful effects of high doses must be dispelled.
Radiation is a medicine and as many medicines it can have adverse effects in large doses. LNT is not used for other medications or pollutants. Experimental data do not support the radiation LNT any more than they support LNT for chemical substances, ergo the LNT is applied to radiation by choice, discretionary, unscientifically, politically.
There is a clear double standard at work. I don’t think this is the most important political double standard but it is quite important.
Good News : Vermont loses court case against Vermont
Federal judge: Vt. nuclear plant can remain open
By DAVE GRAM Associated Press
Posted: 01/19/2012 01:20:30 PM PST
MONTPELIER, Vt.—Vermont’s only nuclear plant can remain open beyond its originally scheduled shutdown date this year, despite the state’s efforts to close the 40-year-old reactor, a federal judge ruled Thursday.
Interesting article. However, I say (again) that even if LNT is true (I doubt it), the current risk estimates (broadly 5%/Sv for fatal induced cancer) should not cause disquiet compared to other risks that we face. What is ‘safe’ is the real problem here. Many pro-nukes would like it to be shown that there is a threshold below which a radiation induced cancer will not occur. That would make life easy since you could then use the word ‘safe’ quite literally. Many anti-nukes want the opposite – and even if they cannot show than ionising radiation is more dangerous than currently suggested by ICRP (et al), then the fact that LNT is based on assumption of no ‘safe level’ (or put another way, the risk of cancer increases with increasing dose without a threshold), then there is always the element of doubt.
I can tell you this – dose limits will not change in the next 20 years (at least). Even if new important research comes along to suggest that ionising radiation is more or less dangerous (at low levels), it will take decades to sink into the legislation. Therefore, dealing with the whole concept of what is ‘safe’ is the key (somehow). I only wish I know how!
(Note: Before anyone corrects me, there is work going on to reduce the eye dose limits internationally downwards to 20mSv/year on the basis that there may be stochastic effects – rather than cataracts which are said to be deterministic. So at the moment the emphasis might be on the downwards rather than the upwards slope).
I visited the RID in Delft, Netherlands, which is a 2MW pool type nuclear reactor at the Delft University of Technology this week. The reactor is used for neutron and positron based research. Standing at the side of the pool, peering into the reactorarea with it’s strange cherenkov light all around it, I asked the operator what would happen if I fell over the low barrier into the pool and consumed a gulp of water. The operator said probably nothing would happen. He said I would need to dive way down into the pool and embrace the reactor core in order to suffer significant damage.
Talking more about radiation risk and nuclear power, I asked the operator whether he thought we should build more nuclear power plants in the Netherlands. He said he thought that wind and solar energy should be pursued, but that nuclear power plants should be build rather than coal plants. Some of the other participants (energy/consultancy sector) in the visit said that no nuclear plants should be built, because even if the risk was small, “wind and solar can provide all the energy we need” so why run the (small) risk of nuclear power? I responded that without nuclear power the (already small) chances of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and limiting fossil fuel dependence would be much smaller. However, the participants told me I was wrong and that nuclear power was unnecessary for humanity. They cited the popular reports by greenpeace, WWF, etc.
Concluding: I think the main problem facing a nuclear power revival is the now popular thought – even among people working in the energy/consultancy sector – that nuclear energy is (or will soon be) *unnecessary*, coupled with the fact that nuclear power represents *a risk*. After all: if wind and solar power can supply all the power we need, and nuclear power represents ‘a risk’ then why not just eliminate nuclear power technology as soon as possible?
Why do you think I get so angry about the amount of money that the natural gas, oil and coal industry and their friends in the government and ad supported media have spent touting the fiction that “renewables” are anything but weather dependent “unreliables” designed to depower most of us?
I had a very frustrating discussion with an antinuclear activist at a public meeting last night. He kept trying to tell me that wind and solar was all we needed. It was a still, cool NIGHT. I invited him to step outside with metro see just how much wind and sun was available at that very moment.
He kept going around and around and saying stupid stuff like “all we need is to invest more money in energy storage.” I finally got tired, told the man I thought he was an idiot and walked out.
It’s a shame. But at least this idiot has heard you, and he will have learned something, even though he apparently would not admit it then and there.
I left the meeting at the RID having offered that my opinion on nuclear is that the Netherlands should have a fleet of new nuclear plants rather than the currently planned coal plants.
(I would have said much more, but this is a bite-sized sound-bite society. If you need more than 25 words to say something, people start doubting your motives already.)
I am also angered by the myths in the energy debate that many people honestly think are ‘likely true’. You need to cut though so much overburden of these myths to get to the sensible questions. I would like to see more government effort to help keep that overburden thinner. Doesn’t the government have a duty to inform citizens about basic science conclusions regarding applied science? Otherwise, why should we have faith in the benefits of democracy if voters don’t know what they are voting about?
@Joris – in your country, government may still have a duty to inform citizens. That is still the case among career civil servants here in the US, but unfortunately, the political appointees believe that their mission is reelection. That mission is generally seen as requiring a huge quantity of corporate donations, so the needs of that constituency is often elevated over efforts that result in a well educated, capable citizenry.
There was a time in American history when the elites recognized that a well educated citizenry helped to build both a strong economy and a strong national defense, but in the era of off-shoring and drones…
Interesting discussion. I think it lacks real relevance to the issue of nuclear power versus ionizing radiation. These medical doses are extremely high and collateral damage is almost a given. This completely overwhelms the body defence (or is it defense) systems against said ionizing radiation.
Much more interesting is the effect of ionizing radiation well within the capabilities of the body defense (defence) systems. For instance even if you deliberately moved to the most contaminated areas in Fukushima and deliberately spend a lot of time outside on Cs contaminated soil, you’ll only be pushing up to a few hundred mSv/year of ionizing radiation. This is completely gradual, over an entire year. We’re talking about much less than 0.1 millisieverts per hour dose here. Very tiny dose rate. Compare to the medical dose rates above, where >2000 millisieverts are administered in, like what, 10 minutes? This corresponds to dose rates of 10000 mSv/h, roughly a hundred thousand times higher dose rate than what you get in the worst places in Fukushima if you deliberately try to soak up Fukushima radiation.
This low dose rate is what we should be discussing because it is most relevant to nuclear power (especially during accidents). There could still be a distinction between high total dose and low total dose. Receiving 1 sievert over 50 years is still a very small dose rate. But discussing high dose rates is not that interesting, IMHO.
“…even if you deliberately moved to the most contaminated areas in Fukushima and deliberately spend a lot of time outside on Cs contaminated soil, you’ll only be pushing up to a few hundred mSv/year of ionizing radiation.” That is, the most contaminated area there is about that of the natural background rate of Ramsar, Iran? I.e. harmless? I am waiting for a science popularizer (Carl Sagan, we miss you) to publish a pamphlet/essay with the title “Godzilla! Or how to needlessly scare the crap out of people and starve them of cheap electricity.”
Thank you for pointing out another glaring source of confusion. The dose rates are routinely ignored and conclusions are made only for the integral doses. The unbiased scientific research is history, today all research is funded by biased entitles, including the best government money can buy.
The confusion is strictly necessary for effective propaganda, so research teams are paid to produce it. When such research gets in the hands of the journalists they can make whatever they want out of it.
What would be the effect of a slice of Fukushima Tuna with some plutonium in your colon. This unwanted form of brachytherapy could locally deliver 10000 mSv/h… Any volunteers?
Where did you get your dose rate number?
I would be happy to eat tuna caught right off of the coast of Fukushima. If you have a source, we can arrange for a public demonstration.
Count me in … With some radioactive rice … I’ll assemble the sushi myself, no gloves.
Rod is finally getting a chance to play Dr. Bernard Cohen to Wobble’s Ralph Nader. https://atomicinsights.com/1995/05/how-deadly-plutonium.html
Save me a slice of that magical mythical fish – heavy on the Pu-244, hold the 238.
Served with a caffeine-free coffee of course.
Plutonium is bone seeking, so I wouldn’t want to eat any fish with lots of plutonium in it. However, such fish have not been found near fukushima seas. The amounts encountered in seabeds (also strontium) are so low I wouldn’t worry about eating fish.
This is a different issue from evacuating people over a few hundred mSv/year of radiocesium in the topsoil. Which is the main evacuation criteria right now. I argue that this makes no sense at all. Living near a major road gives you much higher and indisputable increase in cancer risk (from particulate matter) than living on 100 mSv/year of cesium topsoil. Yet we don’t evacuate all areas near major roads,in fact our governments actively encourage companies with malls and with lots of people in offices etc. to settle themselves near roads.
If you look at the pollution in Tokyo, we should be evacuating Tokyo immediately. Its pollution is many times more carginogenic than anywhere in Fukushima.
Wow, it looks like LNT-denialism also leads to revisionist history. But that’s not surprising, most cults revise science and history to fit their ideology.
Some of the earliest evidence for radiocarcinogenesis came from excess skin cancers and leukemias in the first practicing radiologists. There was also increased thyroid cancers in children irradiated to treat thymic enlargement and adults irradiated to treat ankylosing spondylitis. That’s why we don’t perform these treatments any longer.
The two “professionals” seem unaware of all of that historic data, which led to the science of health physics.
Of course, many other studies have been done since. These are summarized in Chap 7, of BEIR VII:
Dr. George acknowledges that it is improper to consider anecdotal evidence, yet proffers it anyways.
Dr. Cuttler points out that Wade Allison is a medical physics expert, but fails to mention that Allison is not a health physics expert. Allison tells us this himself (it’s also obvious from his writings):
And since a picture is worth a thousand words, check out the cover of this month’s Health Physics Journal:
Thanks for the link to the graphically enhanced image on the HPS Journal cover.
Since I am not yet a member of the HPS, and cannot access the papers, can you share the abstract for the following paper that was in the latest issue? It has an intriguing title that is relevant to this discussion:
Cancer and Non-cancer Mortality among Inhabitants in the High Background Radiation Area of Yangjiang, China (1979 –1998) — Zufan Tao, Suminori Akiba, Yongru Zha, Quanfu Sun, Jianming Zou, Jia Li, Yusheng Liu, Yongling Yuan, Shinji Tokonami, Hisashige Morishoma, Taeko Koga, Seiichi Nakamura, Tsutomu Sugahara, and Luxin Wei
I second the motion …
Abstract—: The present study aimed to evaluate the effects of high background radiation (HBR) on mortality. A cohort of 31,604 men and women aged 30–74 y living in the study area in Guangdong Province, China, was followed during the period 1979–1998. The information on deaths and migrations of cohort members was collected by visiting study areas every 3–4 y. Cumulative external radiation dose, lagged by 2 y for leukemia and 10 y for cancer excluding leukemia, was estimated for each individual based on hamlet-specific indoor and outdoor doses, and gender- and age-specific house occupancy factors. The follow-up study accumulated 736,942 person-years at risk and ascertained 6,005 deaths, including 956 cancer deaths and 4,525 non-cancer disease deaths. Mean cumulative radiation doses from natural radiation in the HBR and control area residents were 84.8 mGy and 21.6 mGy, respectively. Mortality due to leukemia (15 deaths) or cancer excluding leukemia (941 deaths) was not related to cumulative radiation dose. The excess relative risk (ERR) Gy−1 of cancer excluding leukemia was estimated to be −1.01 (95% CI: −2.53, 0.95). In site-specific analysis, liver-cancer mortality was inversely related to the cumulative dose (p=0.002). Note, however, that liver cancer is well known for its difficulty in accurate diagnosis. The ERR Gy−1 of cancer excluding leukemia and liver cancer was 0.19 (95% CI: −1.87, 3.04). Non-cancer disease mortality was not related to cumulative radiation dose either. The cumulative HBR dose was not related to the mortality due to cancer or all non-cancer diseases among residents in Yangjiang HBR areas.
Mortality due to leukemia (15 deaths) or cancer excluding leukemia (941 deaths) was not related to cumulative radiation dose. The excess relative risk (ERR) Gy−1 of cancer excluding leukemia was estimated to be −1.01 (95% CI: −2.53, 0.95).
Is this sentence saying what I think it is saying? It certainly appears to be saying that the excess relative risk is a small negative number, meaning that high background seems to be responsible for slightly REDUCING the risk of contracting cancer.
Of course, since it has been a long time since I was assigned duties as a professional protector of people from radiation, I might be misreading that portion of the abstract.
You’re reading it correctly. By the way, the part that reads “Gy-1” should be read as “per gray of radiation exposure.” Obviously, there was some difficulty transcribing some superscripts.
Apparently, this negative trend is largely due to mortality from liver-cancer, which the authors explain “is well known for its difficulty in accurate diagnosis.” In any case, the error bars are so large in the results that it is not possible to draw any robust conclusions. The only statistically significant result appears to be the inversely related results specifically for liver cancer, but the authors appear to remain unconvinced, due to the reasons mentioned above.
All that can be said is that “mortality due to leukemia … or cancer excluding leukemia … was not related to cumulative radiation dose.” Certainly, no large effect, either way, was observed. In the end, however, this will be chalked up as yet another ecologic study, and I doubt that it will change anything.
(My first comment didn’t post because I had too many links. Posting several comments, one link each)
The two “professionals” should read Chapter 7 of BEIR VII which summarizes the wealth of studies that they seem totally unaware of:
The first connections between radiation and cancer came from the first radiologists and their patients.
@Bob – did you happen to click on the link for Dr. Jerry Cuttler? Are you really accusing him of failing to be aware of the history of radiation studies? It has been his primary area of study for 15 years; can you share again your own background in the topic?
Cuttler said, “To summarize, there is an enormous amount of data from cancer patients who received radiotherapy. There are long-term consequences—scarring. Where is the data for new cancers?”
I’m not saying he is not aware, he is saying he is not aware.
You are misunderstanding the rhetorical question. Dr. Cuttler is saying that he does not agree that there is any data that demonstrates a relationship between radiation doses at low and moderate levels and an increased risk of cancer.
The statement of yours indicates that you have more stubborn faith in a preexisting belief system than a true sense of scientific inquiry:
The first connections between radiation and cancer came from the first radiologists and their patients.
Really? Exactly what kind of doses were involved there? How were they measured? What was the sample size of the study? How were confounding effects filtered out? Enquiring minds want to know.
I seem to remember learning how dose limits evolved when i was in Nuclear Power School. Unfortunately i don’t remember exact numbers, but I do recall that one of the early limits was based on reddening of the skin because we didn’t know any better. this does indicate that the doses people were receiving in the early days of experimenting with radiation were huge. This causes me to think that the first connections between radiation and cancer were caused by very large doses.
This causes me to think that the first connections between radiation and cancer were caused by very large doses.
David – I would like to offer a small correction in your words:
This causes me to think that the first connections between radiation and cancer were caused by what we think of today as very large doses.
Dr. George acknowledges that anecdotal evidence is improper, yet proffers it anyway.
Dr. Cuttler tells us Wade Allison is a medical physics expert, but fails to mention that he is not a health physics expert. Allison acknowledges he is not:
Dr. Cuttler doesn’t seem to realize that many pathological insults stimulate the body’s defences. Allergens, viruses, paper cuts, etc. That doesn’t make those things welcome. As long as radiation interacts with cells, cells are not 100% capable of repair, and not 100% able to avoid misrepair, then there is a great than 0% risk associated with dose.
While basing a study on anecdotal evidence would be improper, there is absolutely nothing wrong with scientists sharing interesting anecdotes in a conversation that might stimulate them to do more research.
In your list of pathological insults that stimulate the body’s defenses, you neglected to list a few like breathing (oxygen can be quite damaging to the function of an individual cell) and eating food that are quite welcome because they are an integral part of being a living organism – as we know it.
This is part of the argument that most of of have with regard to your stubborn insistence that there is only zero risk at the point where there is zero radiation. That state does not exist for any life on earth; there is no way to experimentally prove that assertion.
Radiation is a natural part of our earthly environment; our bodies evolved in a bath of radiation. There is not any fixed level – it varies by several orders of magnitude depending on location and it has changed quite a bit over the history of life on earth.
My assertion – which is backed up by the work of non-politically appointed scientists like Cuttler, Pollycove, Calabrese and others – is that once the dose rate is down in the weeds of natural variation it is impossible to detect any risk. Therefore, it is safe to say that there is no risk of exposures at that level.
The precise risk number for any specified individual may be a value that is not zero, but it will be close enough to zero that it cannot be measured. It might even be a negative value of risk for some individuals.
In other words, the difference between the precise value of radiation exposure risk for radiation doses within normal variations in background and zero risk has no practical meaning. It is, quite simply stated, a SAFE level of exposure.
I never wrote that low doses are NOT SAFE.
But the risk is not zero, let alone negative.
Our bodies did evolve in a bath of radiation, and without additional manmade contributions, humans get cancer in that bath of radiation.
Cancer is now the second leading cause of death in the U.S. Even with all that evolution!
Bob, you say the risk is not zero, let alone negative. Yet this is precisely what a host of data and research suggests.
Our bodies evolved in a bath of radiation. You say we get cancer from background levels of radiation, yet there is no evidence of this. Higher background radiation areas have lower cancer rates.
Cancer is indeed a leading cause of death, but that does not imply radiation has much to do with it. Chemical insults, mostly provoked by bad lifestyles (smoking drinking eating), and pollution (fossil fuel use) are the primary cause of cancer. The DNA damage from these chemical insults outstrips the DNA damage from ionizing radiation by SEVERAL orders of magnitude – even for people who have a healthy diet and live in a low background radiation environment…
Bob says “Allergens, viruses, paper cuts, etc. That doesn’t make those things welcome.”
That is actually the basis for a good portion of modern medicine. Vaccines are by and large, introducing a small amount of a virus to the body so that the body learns how to defend against it.
A man who works with his hands building houses or any other physical labor, through the process of bashing/battering/cutting his hands, develops skin that is much more resistant to paper cuts than those of a guy that does not (ie Joe Average Office Worker)
Even the act of exercise, that pinnacle of how to keep the human body healthy consists of doing major damage to our muscle cells, who grow back stronger than they were before.
But in the above examples we can go too far. A small vaccination will prevent a major illness, but too much gives us the illness. Through Physical labor or exercises, one can push their body to the breaking point and permanent damage can be done to Ligaments or muscles.
So by your logic, As there is not a 100% chance that you will not suffer major knee damage while jogging, Running should be banned.
Because 1 in 2000000 people will get the bird flu from a flu vaccination, no one should ever get vaccinated for anything (I admit.. bad example, there are many people that think just that)
But that fact remains that we as a society took the time, and decided that the benefits out way any minor risk.
But they have not done the same risk assessment with Radiation. With radiation, we are trying to destroy an entire industry because 1 person 17 generations removed from the event will give birth to a mutant Godzilla, who will then die of cancer before destroying Tokyo.
No, you are confusing an inoculation with a vaccination. A vaccine takes a prepared form of virus (not natural, either dead, weakened, or a portion). Inoculations are much more risky, and are rarely done.
In either case, there are risks associated with both.
The risks are not zero.
I never wrote anything about banning anything.
You are evading the issue – in low doses radiation is beneficial, with the benefits surpassing the risks by far. Curtis explained this very eloquently but you are playing obtuse. In the light of his examples, LNT doesn’t make any sense – in other words, there IS a threshold below witch radiation brings more benefits than risks – statistically speaking.
Any yet, my point remains: Allergens, viruses, paper cuts, etc. are all something that in lower amounts, are either have little to no effect, or beneficial effects on us.
So… What are you going on about Bob? Serious Question.
What in your mind is Safe Enough? At the risks that we know of, small as they are, what are the benefits that would out way them?
For the benefit of those who don’t know the difference off-hand (myself being one of those), could you give a brief explanation of the (subtle?) differences between a medical physics expert and a health physics expert as that seems to be an important point from your wording?
Medical physics is the science of using radiation in the diagnosis and treatment of disease. Health physics is the science of radiation safety.
And since a picture is worth a thousand words, here is the cover of this month’s Health Physics Journal (a journal read by health physics professionals):
Looking at that picture, and especially the annotations, I can’t help but think of “John 3:16.”
Cover of this month’s HPJ:
Baby steps :
Spain starts process to reverse Garona nuclear plant closure order
Madrid (Platts)–20Jan2012/639 am EST/1139 GMT
Spain’s government has started the legal process to reverse the decision of the country’s previous government to close the Santa Maria de Garona nuclear power plant, the country’s nuclear commission said late Thursday.
Spain is major victim of EU lunacy, they may be waking up from their EU hallucinations.
The media won’t tell you this but we are in the middle of an artificially induced energy crisis. It comes together with an artificially produced trade crisis, and the financial problems it entails.
There is an important historical parallel – Hitler came to power after an artificial financial crisis and proceed to ruin Europe to the detriment of Germany itself. The German prosperity is dependent first and foremost on the regional prosperity which includes all of Europe. Back then, the initiating economic problems were pushed on Germany by the other Western powers, along with THE push for a shooting war – The Munich Pact.
Fast forward to today – Germany has been and is going down a familiar path, this time they are also the initiators the preliminary economic upheavals. They waged an unbalanced trade war against the surrounding countries and managed (again) to ruin some of them along with themselves.
For some reason, the last German governments (of either variety) act as either dumb or enemies of their own country. They look more like mechanical toys, not thinking people. With their opposition to nuclear power ANYWHERE in Europe, the German governments are deepening the crisis which THEY have created. They were the major authors of the sloppy trade policies, imposed via the corrupt EU bureaucracy.
Of course, the regional crisis hits back Germany big time. What’s next? Another idiot puppet installed as a “savior”? Indeed, in the case of another war (or corruption driven sabotage), Germany won’t want nuclear plants nearby. The willingness of NATO to bomb everywhere fits right in.
Yes. But Germany is shrinking demographically, so will not be in a position to attempt the conquest of Europe again, anytime soon.
The collapse of German, Spanish, and Japanese subsidies for solar (and to some extend wind) projects may indicate that they are beginning to comprehend their need for advanced nuclear reactors.
Actually the German economy is doing rather well at the moment, with the lowest unemployment in 20 years.
The key words in your above are “at the moment”. The Germans have a long history of self-delusion. They are blissfully unaware of the enormous future costs that their leaders have already agreed to pay in the form of long term feed in tariffs at rates way above what their neighbors will be paying for power.
Have a look at this article in the January 18, 2012 issue of SpiegelOnline:
The industrial exodus is already starting.
“Actually the German economy is doing rather well at the moment”
According to Der Spiegel, the storm clouds are on right on the horizon:
“Solar Subsidy Sinkhole: Re-Evaluating Germany’s Blind Faith in the Sun”
“Stress on the High Seas: Germany’s Wind Power Revolution in the Doldrums”
The Germans are an interesting study in crowd psychology. They have traded the one-in-a-million chance of a nuclear disaster for the certainty of an economic one.
Joe B January 22, 2012 | 7:26 PM :
Actually the German economy is doing rather well at the moment, with the lowest unemployment in 20 years.
Here are several reality-related quotes about the effects of vendor financing. There are buckets of statistical rosy-paint on them but the shape of the real picture is visible:
“Bloomberg reports Germany May Be on Brink of Recession
German Economy Contracts in $4th Quarter
The weaker global economy and waning demand from debt- stricken euro-area neighbors have eroded German foreign sales, the main pillar of its economic expansion. Net trade contributed 0.8 percentage point to growth last year. Europe’s largest economy shrank “roughly” 0.25 percent in the fourth quarter from the third, the Federal Statistics Office in Wiesbaden said today in an unofficial estimate.
German growth will slow to 0.6 percent this year before recovering to 1.8 percent in 2013, the Bundesbank predicted on Dec. 19. The European Central Bank, which has cut interest rates to a record low and flooded the banking system with cash during the debt crisis, last month reduced its 2012 growth forecast for the 17-nation euro region to just 0.3 percent. ”
Also, in Germany PROSTITUTION is legal. By law, unemployed German women cannot refuse job offers from the SEX INDUSTRY without losing their unemployment benefits. Low unemployment? This kind of employment is surely LOW.
Also, Hitler’s book is being re-published in Germany with a special permission (they have a law that forbids nazi literature, etc). The printing creates additional employment… of the LOW kind.
Note – there are apparently two people who post as “Joe B” in this conversation. One of them seems to have done his homework on the German economy.
Merkel has repeatedly gone the ‘populist’ path to remain in power. She was once against, then for, then against nuclear power again.
Greenspan, in his latest book ‘The Age of Turbulence’, blames the stagnation of Central America to successive populist governments. Charismatic leaders follow the voices of the crowds and forget that political decisions must be accounted for using a dual entry bookkeeping system.
This is what Merkel has done. She will pay the price. She has no idea how the balancing accounting entry is going to cost Germany for writing off nuclear.
Interesting conversation. Newly diagnosed: Breast cancer Invasive Lobular Classic Stage 1. Under 2cm , clear margins and onco score of 13. Radiation yay or nay?
I am Trying to decide I have been told benefits out weigh the risks and only small percentage get another cancer down the road and that it is a new cancer.
Also concerned about protecting other organs such as liver and kidney. Thank you in advance.
Radiation therapy was once offered as the last battery of treatment for certain types of cancer.
Now it is offered as the first line of medical care for a lot of prostate, breast and vaginal ailment.
Trust your doctor. Curie therapy works.
Thank you Daniel.
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