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RESIDENTIAL RADON EXPOSURE AND LUNG CANCER RISK: COMMENTARY ON COHEN’S COUNTY-BASED STUDY

Heath, C W. Jr*; Bond, P D.†; Hoel, D G.‡; Meinhold, C B.†§

doi: 10.1097/01.HP.0000138588.59022.40
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The large United States county-based study (Cohen 1995, 2001) in which an inverse relationship has been suggested between residential low-dose radon levels and lung cancer mortality has been reviewed. While this study has been used to evaluate the validity of the linear nonthreshold theory, the grouped nature of its data limits the usefulness of this application. Our assessment of the study’s approach, including a reanalysis of its data, also indicates that the likelihood of strong, undetected confounding effects by cigarette smoking, coupled with approximations of data values and uncertainties in accuracy of data sources regarding levels of radon exposure and intensity of smoking, compromises the study’s analytic power. The most clear data for estimating lung cancer risk from low levels of radon exposure continue to rest with higher-dose studies of miner populations in which projections to zero dose are consistent with estimates arising from most case-control studies regarding residential exposure.

* 674 Plantation Point Road, Woodbine, GA 31569-2124; † Physics Department, Brookhaven National Laboratory, Upton, NY; ‡ Department of Biometry and Epidemiology, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC.

For correspondence or reprints contact: T. Tenforde, 7910 Woodmont Avenue, Suite 400, Bethesda, MD 20814-3096, or email at tenforde@ncrp.com.

§ The authors of this paper are members of Scientific Committee 1-10 of the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements, which coordinated the committee’s work.

Editor’s note: The following articles deal with Dr. Bernard Cohen’s Radon Expsoure and Lung Cancer research. This article was provided to Dr. Cohen so that the article and his response would appear together in hopes of providing our readers the benefit of seeing all views together.

(Manuscript received 25 June 2004; accepted 15 August 2004)

©2004Health Physics Society