Radiation risk factor

Last revised by Jeremy Jones on 9 Jul 2020

The radiation risk factor is the total lifetime risk of radiation-induced fatal cancer for the general population.

The International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) quantifies the radiation risk factor as 5% (5 in 100) per Sv, or 0.05% (1 in 20,000) per mSv.

These figures are based on epidemiological data sources such as:

  • atomic bomb survivors
  • occupational exposure 
  • medical exposures 

Importantly, this estimate can be used to determine the risk of radiation exposure from radiological procedures in current medical practice.

The risk profile changes with respect to varying demographics. The radiation risk factor is larger in children (<18 years) by a factor of 2-3, as their rapidly growing cells are more susceptible to mutation, and they have most of their lives still ahead of them. In older age groups (>60 years), where there is less time for a cancer to develop, the radiation risk factor is reduced by a factor of 5.


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