National Cancer Institute NCI Cancer Bulletin: A Trusted Source for Cancer Research News
August 7, 2012 • Volume 9 / Number 16

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New Research Tool Estimates Risk of Radiation-Related Cancers

NCI has released the first online radiation risk assessment tool, RadRAT, for use by researchers. The tool can be used for estimating an individual’s lifetime risk of radiation-related cancers. A description of the tool and how it was developed appeared July 19 in the Journal of Radiological Protection.

RadRAT uses risk models based largely on those for low-dose radiation exposures developed by the National Academy of Sciences’ Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation (BEIR VII) committee.

The BEIR VII models estimate risk for 11 cancers: stomach, colon, liver, lung, breast, uterus, ovary, prostate, bladder, thyroid, and leukemia. RadRAT estimates risk for these cancers and seven more: oral, esophagus, gallbladder, pancreas, rectum, kidney, and brain/central nervous system. The risk estimates for the seven additional cancers are based on data from Japanese atomic bomb survivors.

The tool is most appropriate for research related to radiation doses of less than 1 gray (Gy; a unit of estimated absorbed dose of ionizing radiation) and for individuals with life-expectancy and cancer rates similar to those in the U.S. population, according to Dr. Amy Berrington de Gonzalez of NCI’s Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, who led the team that developed RadRAT.

“This is a valuable tool for researchers, as it can provide risk estimates with uncertainty intervals for complex exposure histories from sources such as CT scans and dental x-rays to environmental radiation and nuclear accidents,” said Dr. Berrington de Gonzalez. “It covers any external low-dose radiation exposure.” 

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