The workers at the Mayak nuclear facility near Ozyorsk, Russia are a primary source of information about exposure to radiation at low-dose rates, since they were subject to protracted exposures to external gamma rays and to internal exposures from plutonium inhalation. Here we re-examine lung cancer mortality rates and assess the effects of external gamma and internal plutonium exposures using recently developed Monte Carlo dosimetry systems. Using individual lagged mean annual lung doses computed from the dose realizations, we fit excess relative risk (ERR) models to the lung cancer mortality data for the Mayak Workers Cohort using risk-modeling software. We then used the corrected-information matrix (CIM) approach to widen the confidence intervals of ERR by taking into account the uncertainty in doses represented by multiple realizations from the Monte Carlo dosimetry systems. Findings of this work revealed that there were 930 lung cancer deaths during follow-up. Plutonium lung doses (but not gamma doses) were generally higher in the new dosimetry systems than those used in the previous analysis. This led to a reduction in the risk per unit dose compared to prior estimates. The estimated ERR/Gy for external gamma-ray exposure was 0.19 (95% CI: 0.07 to 0.31) for both sexes combined, while the ERR/Gy for internal exposures based on mean plutonium doses were 3.5 (95% CI: 2.3 to 4.6) and 8.9 (95% CI: 3.4 to 14) for males and females at attained age 60. Accounting for uncertainty in dose had little effect on the confidence intervals for the ERR associated with gamma-ray exposure, but had a marked impact on confidence intervals, particularly the upper bounds, for the effect of plutonium exposure [adjusted 95% CIs: 1.5 to 8.9 for males and 2.7 to 28 for females]. In conclusion, lung cancer rates increased significantly with both external gamma-ray and internal plutonium exposures. Accounting for the effects of dose uncertainty markedly increased the width of the confidence intervals for the plutonium dose response but had little impact on the external gamma dose effect estimate. Adjusting risk estimate confidence intervals using CIM provides a solution to the important problem of dose uncertainty. This work demonstrates, for the first time, that it is possible and practical to use our recently developed CIM method to make such adjustments in a large cohort study.

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