Radiation-induced carcinogenesis

Last revised by Daniel J Bell on 26 Nov 2021

Radiation-induced carcinogenesis is widely but not universally believed to occur at exposures from ionizing radiation used in medical imaging. It is thought to be a stochastic effect of ionizing radiation, with the linear no-threshold theory (LNT) proposing no "safe" level of radiation exposure, and an increased risk of cancer with increasing dose 1,2. The LNT is not universally accepted with some proposing an adaptive dose-response relationship where low doses are protective and high doses are detrimental 5.

The latency period between radiation exposure and cancer detection varies 3,4:

  • leukemia: minimum of 2-3 years with a peak incidence at 10 years after radiation exposure
  • solid tumors: minimum of 10-15 years with a peak incidence of up to 50 years after radiation exposure

It is important to note that individual studies that explore radiation-induced carcinogenesis as a result of low doses (<100mGy) have low statistical power and overall are not statistically significant 6.

ADVERTISEMENT: Supporters see fewer/no ads