Surprisingly, exposure to a high background radiation might actually lead to clear beneficial health effects in humans, according to Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Nuclear Research Center Negev (NRCN) scientists. This is the first large-scale study which examines the two major sources of background radiation (terrestrial radiation and cosmic radiation), covering the entire U.S. population.
The study’s findings were recently published in Biogerontology.
Background radiation is an ionizing radiation that exists in the environment because of natural sources. In their study, BGU researchers show that life expectancy is approximately 2.5 years longer among people living in areas with a relatively high vs. low background radiation.
Background radiation includes radiation emanating from space, and radiation from terrestrial sources. Since the 1960s, there has been a linear no-threshold hypothesis guiding policy that any radiation level carries some risk. Hundreds of billions of dollars are spent around the world to reduce radiation levels as much as possible.
“Decades of scientific theory are potentially being disproven by the remarkable researchers at BGU,” says Doug Seserman, chief executive officer, American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. “These findings might even provide a sense of relief for those who reside in areas in the U.S. with higher-than-average background radiation.”
According to BGU Professors Vadim Fraifeld and Marina Wolfson, along with Dr. Elroei David of the Nuclear Research Center Negev, lower levels of several types of cancers were found when the radiation levels were on the higher end of the spectrum rather than on the lower end. Among both men and women, there was a significant decrease in lung, pancreatic, colon and rectal cancers. Among men, there were additional decreases in brain and bladder cancers. There was no decrease in cervix, breast or prostate cancers or leukemia.
Using the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s radiation dose calculator, the researchers retrieved data about background radiation from all 3,129 U.S. counties. The study’s data regarding cancer rates was retrieved from the United States Cancer Statistics. Life expectancy data was retrieved from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington Medical Center.
“It is reasonable to suggest that a radiation threshold does exist, yet it is higher than the upper limit of the natural background radiation levels in the US (227 mrem/year),” the researchers write. “These findings provide clear indications for re-considering the linear no-threshold paradigm, at least within the natural range of low-dose radiation.”
Reference: “Background radiation impacts human longevity and cancer mortality: reconsidering the linear no-threshold paradigm” by Elroei David, Marina Wolfson and Vadim E. Fraifeld, 22 January 2021, Biogerontology.
Prof. Vadim Fraifeld and Prof. Marina Wolfson are members of the BGU Shraga Segal Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Genetics in the Faculty of Health Sciences and members of the Center for Multidisciplinary Research on Aging. Dr. Elroei David is a BGU graduate and now is a senior scientist at the Nuclear Research Center Negev.
Overblown headline refuted by article, which states, “Decades of scientific theory are potentially being disproven…” “Potentially” being the key qualifying word. It’s just one epidemiological analysis.
Note also that the “health benefits” cited in the headline comprise a (potentially) insignificant reduction in certain cancers. This is a statistics-based finding and should cite the degree of uncertainty.
Meanwhile, there is no analysis of genetic damage done by ionizing radiation, a known risk which is at least as concerning as radiation’s carcinogenic potential.
C’mon, editors. You have to do better. Many people will never bother to read the story; their takeaway will be the headline, which is misleading at best.
Richie, you said:
‘This is a statistics-based finding and should cite the degree of uncertainty.”
If you go to the link provided, the abstract gives the p-value for a 96% confidence interval.
That should be “95%.”
No. 96% is a real probability. It is, however, a 3 sigma level of standard deviation, which is meh. Would you bet your life on a 1 in 19 chance of dying sooner than later?
I was pointing out that I mis-typed what was in the abstract. They used the common 0.05 threshold for null-hypothesis rejection.
The “hormesis” hypothesis has been around for quite a long time and there is a lot of anecdotal evidence to support it. I’m a little surprised that this got published because it is not politically correct.
The consensus paradigm on ionizing radiation is that any amount is harmful. If that were true, then those living at high elevations, and on granitic or black shale bedrock, should have significantly higher rates of most cancers. Yet, there is no stigma against living in Denver, because it doesn’t seem to be an anomaly.
This site is mutating to tabloid news and gossip.
Agree with the comment by Dr. S regarding the degeneration of this site.
Oh dear, poor Dr Helen Caldicott is going to have terrible fits if this notion of radiation is not as fearsome as she would have us believe ever becomes accepted.
Meanwhile people in parts of Brazil, India, Iran have been living with higher natural levels of radiation from thorium in the sand and rocks plus the folks in Denver seem not to have died off yet.