A framework for estimating radiation-related cancer risks in Japan from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • External authors:
  • Linda Walsh
  • Zhang Wei
  • R. E. Shore
  • A. Auvinen
  • D. Laurier
  • P. Jacob
  • N. Gent
  • L. R. Anspaugh
  • J. Schüz
  • A. Kesminiene
  • E. van Deventer
  • A. Tritscher
  • M. del Rosarion Pérez

Abstract

We present here a methodology for health risk assessment adopted by the World Health Organization that provides a framework for estimating risks from the Fukushima nuclear accident after the March 11, 2011 Japanese major earthquake and tsunami. Substantial attention has been given to the possible health risks associated with human exposure to radiation from damaged reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station. Cumulative doses were estimated and applied for each post-accident year of life, based on a reference level of exposure during the first year after the earthquake. A lifetime cumulative dose of twice the first year dose was estimated for the primary radionuclide contaminants ((134)Cs and (137)Cs) and are based on Chernobyl data, relative abundances of cesium isotopes, and cleanup efforts. Risks for particularly radiosensitive cancer sites (leukemia, thyroid and breast cancer), as well as the combined risk for all solid cancers were considered. The male and female cumulative risks of cancer incidence attributed to radiation doses from the accident, for those exposed at various ages, were estimated in terms of the lifetime attributable risk (LAR). Calculations of LAR were based on recent Japanese population statistics for cancer incidence and current radiation risk models from the Life Span Study of Japanese A-bomb survivors. Cancer risks over an initial period of 15 years after first exposure were also considered. LAR results were also given as a percentage of the lifetime baseline risk (i.e., the cancer risk in the absence of radiation exposure from the accident). The LAR results were based on either a reference first year dose (10 mGy) or a reference lifetime dose (20 mGy) so that risk assessment may be applied for relocated and non-relocated members of the public, as well as for adult male emergency workers. The results show that the major contribution to LAR from the reference lifetime dose comes from the first year dose. For a dose of 10 mGy in the first year and continuing exposure, the lifetime radiation-related cancer risks based on lifetime dose (which are highest for children under 5 years of age at initial exposure), are small, and much smaller than the lifetime baseline cancer risks. For example, after initial exposure at age 1 year, the lifetime excess radiation risk and baseline risk of all solid cancers in females were estimated to be 0.7 · 10(-2) and 29.0 · 10(-2), respectively. The 15 year risks based on the lifetime reference dose are very small. However, for initial exposure in childhood, the 15 year risks based on the lifetime reference dose are up to 33 and 88% as large as the 15 year baseline risks for leukemia and thyroid cancer, respectively. The results may be scaled to particular dose estimates after consideration of caveats. One caveat is related to the lack of epidemiological evidence defining risks at low doses, because the predicted risks come from cancer risk models fitted to a wide dose range (0-4 Gy), which assume that the solid cancer and leukemia lifetime risks for doses less than about 0.5 Gy and 0.2 Gy, respectively, are proportional to organ/tissue doses: this is unlikely to seriously underestimate risks, but may overestimate risks. This WHO-HRA framework may be used to update the risk estimates, when new population health statistics data, dosimetry information and radiation risk models become available.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)556-572
Number of pages16
JournalRadiation Research
Volume182
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 24 Sep 2014