A recent study published in Lancet Haematology claims to show that even extremely low doses of radiation increase the risk of leukemia and lymphoma.
The study includes several statistical flaws,
ignores the effects of medical exposures — which are of similar levels to occupational exposures — that change dramatically over the duration of the study, and avoids a proper accounting for uncertainties in both measured doses and in the expected level of subject diseases in a non-exposed population.
Update – (July 8, 2015) I have received a message from the SARI member who raised the concern about medical exposures. He has retracted that objection following a more detailed explanation of methodology received by direct communication from the study authors. End Update.
The study was conducted with funding from the following organizations:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare of Japan, Institut de Radioprotection et de Sûreté Nucléaire, AREVA, Electricité de France, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, US Department of Energy, US Department of Health and Human Services, University of North Carolina, Public Health England.
The list of authors for the study is lengthy and includes some names that Atomic Insights readers may recognize as “the usual suspects” of large scale radiation epidemiology studies.
Dr Klervi Leuraud, PhD,
David B Richardson, PhD,
Prof Elisabeth Cardis, PhD,
Robert D Daniels, PhD,
Michael Gillies, MSc,
Jacqueline A O’Hagan, HNC,
Ghassan B Hamra, PhD,
Richard Haylock, PhD,
Dominique Laurier, PhD,
Monika Moissonnier, BSc,
Mary K Schubauer-Berigan, PhD,
Isabelle Thierry-Chef, PhD,
Ausrele Kesminiene, MD
The challenges to the published study are coming from scientists in radiation health specialties and statisticians, some of whom are members of Scientists for Accurate Radiation Information (SARI). Though the Lancet publication is not one that accepts online comments, an article about the study titled Researchers pin down risks of low-dose radiation has been published in the online version of Nature. That publication provides a commenting capability for registered users who use their real names.
The subtitle of the Nature article provides a strong incentive for immediate action to respond to the well-financed study published in a respected journal by people with good credentials. Here is how the headline writers at Nature summarized the conclusion of the study, which included reconstructed dose histories and evaluation of medical records.
Large study of nuclear workers shows that even tiny doses slightly boost risk of leukaemia.
The study was large, the subjects were nuclear workers, but the conclusion is purposely scary and attention getting. The headline writer is good; the purpose is being served and attention is being paid. I’m not sure that the study authors are going to enjoy the specific kind of attention that they will be getting, but it is time to put modern communications tools to work.
We are not living in the same world as Mark Twain was when he quipped, “A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”
As of the time this article was published, there are 11 comments on the Nature article; nearly all of them offer solid challenges to the conclusions published in the article and the paper.
More later, but it’s time to pull on our shoes and go to work.