According to a recently-completed, decades-long study published in the journal Health Physics, exposure to low-levels of radon commonly found in homes in the United States does not appear to contribute to the development of lung cancer and may actually reduce a person’s risk of developing lung cancer.
The study results mark a significant departure from the previous public health understanding of the risks of long-term, low-dose radon exposure, according to authors of the study.
This latest study included 200 patients with lung cancer and 397 similar subjects who did not have cancer. All of the study participants belonged to the same health care maintenance organization (HMO), and had lived in a radon-testable residence for 10 years or more.
Radon levels were determined on the basis of year-long measurements with detectors that were placed in multiple locations of the house, according to typical time spent in various parts of the house. All participants were categorized into one of 9 smoking categories based on how long each had smoked, and how much he or she smoked.
The findings indicate that low levels of radon exposure are associated with a reduced risk of lung cancer. Scientists hypothesize that at low doses, radiation may help repair damaged DNA, a key factor in the promotion of cancer.
For levels of radon exceeding 4 pico Curies per liter (pCi/L), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends measures should be taken to reduce exposure, such as installing a radon venting system and sealing cracks in the house foundation. Participants in this study were exposed to levels of radiation below 3.4 pCi/L. Authors of the study point out that nothing in the research data suggests that the EPA guideline is incorrect or insufficient.
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