Abstract

New epidemiology assessments of the life span study (LSS) of the atomic bomb survivors in Japan and of other exposed cohorts have been made by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the United Nations Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, and the Radiation Research Effects Foundation in Japan. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) uses a 3% risk of exposure-induced death (REID) as a basis for setting age- and gender-specific dose limits for astronauts. NASA's dose limits originate from the report of the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements (NCRP) in the year 2000 based on analysis of older epidemiology data. We compared the results of the recent analysis of the LSS to the earlier risk projections from the NCRP. Using tissue-specific, incidence-based risk transfer from the LSS data to a U.S. population to project REID values leads to higher risk and reduced dose limits for older astronauts (>40 years) compared to earlier models that were based on mortality risk transfer. Because astronauts and many other individuals should be considered as healthy workers, including never-smokers free of lifetime use of tobacco, we considered possible variations in risks and dose limits that would occur due to the reference population used for estimates. After adjusting cancer rates to remove smoking effects, radiation risks for lung and total cancer were estimated using a mixture model, with equal weights for additive and multiplicative transfer, to be 20% and 30% lower for males and females, respectively, for never-smokers compared to the average U.S. population. We recommend age- and gender-specific dose limits based on incidence-based risk transfer for never-smokers that could be used by NASA. Our analysis illustrates that gaining knowledge to improve transfer models, which entail knowledge of cancer initiation and promotion effects, could significantly reduce uncertainties in risk projections.

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