Author(s): Johansson L, Johansson L
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Abstract The ongoing debate over the possible beneficial effects of ionising radiation on health, hormesis, is reviewed from different perspectives. Radiation hormesis has not been strictly defined in the scientific literature. It can be understood as a decrease in the risk of cancer due to low-dose irradiation, but other positive health effects may also be encompassed by the concept. The overwhelming majority of the currently available epidemiological data on populations exposed to ionising radiation support the assumption that there is a linear non-threshold dose-response relationship. However, epidemiological data fail to demonstrate detrimental effects of ionising radiation at absorbed doses smaller than 100-200 mSv. Risk estimates for these levels are therefore based on extrapolations from higher doses. Arguments for hormesis are derived only from a number of epidemiological studies, but also from studies in radiation biology. Radiobiological evidence for hormesis is based on radio-adaptive response; this has been convincingly demonstrated in vitro, but some questions remain as to how it affects humans. Furthermore, there is an ecologically based argument for hormesis in that, given the evolutionary prerequisite of best fitness, it follows that humans are best adapted to background levels of ionising radiation and other carcinogenic agents in our environment. A few animal studies have also addressed the hormesis theory, some of which have supported it while others have not. To complete the picture, the results of new radiobiological research indicate the need for a paradigm shift concerning the mechanisms of cancer induction. Such research is a step towards a better understanding of how ionising radiation affects the living cell and the organism, and thus towards a more reliable judgement on how to interpret the present radiobiological evidence for hormesis.
This article was published in Eur J Nucl Med Mol Imaging
and referenced in Journal of Defense Management