Radiation risks in context

The health impacts of ionising radiation have been extensively studied, but it is helpful to place the health risks from radiation in the context of other risks to health.  The figures below are taken from the University of Oxford Martin School Restatement of the Health Effects of low level ionising radiation

Average number of years of life lost by specific exposures:

  • Survivor of the Japanese atomic bombings, very heavily exposed (>1Gray) – 2.6 years
  • 35 year old white severely obese male – 4-10 years
  • Lifetime smoking male doctor – 10 years

Annual attributable deaths worldwide from specific exposures:      

  • Residential exposure to radioactive radon gas – 99,000
  • Exposure to ambient particule air pollution (PM2.5) – 3.2 million
  • Tobacco smoking – 6.3 million

According to the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) tobacco and obesity are the top two factors causing cancer.  Exposures to ionising radiation, along with solar ultraviolet (UV) radiation are estimated to account for only 2% of the cases the factor to cause cancer.  


Source: AACR Cancer Progress Report, 2012