Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Nuclear Workers May Face Higher Cancer Risk

Study Shows Exposure to Low-Dose Radiation Slightly Raises Risk of Death From Cancer

WebMD Health News

June 28, 2005 -- People who work in nuclear power plants may have a slightly higher risk of developing cancer, according to the largest study ever conducted of nuclear industry workers.

The researchers show that people who are consistently exposed to low doses of radiation -- such as those who work in nuclear plants -- have about a 10% higher risk of death due to all cancers except leukemia. The risk of death due to leukemia was found to be 19% higher.

Based on those estimates, researchers say about 1%-2% of all deaths among nuclear industry workers may be attributed to radiation exposure.

However, researchers say many of the more than 400,000 nuclear workers who participated in the study worked in the early days of the nuclear industry and were exposed to much higher doses of radiation than under current standards.

The results appear in today's online edition of the British Medical Journal.

Low-Dose Radiation Linked to Cancer

Researchers say current radiation-protection recommendations call for limiting occupational exposure to low-dose radiation to less than 100 millisieverts over five years and under 1 millisievert per year for the public.

Those recommendations are based largely on information from the survivors of the atomic bomb in Japan. But researchers say extrapolating radiation-related cancer risk estimates for nuclear industry workers and the general public is controversial.

In the study, researchers monitored 407,391 nuclear industry workers from 15 countries, including the U.S., for an average of about 13 years.

All of the workers were exposed to low-dose radiation as part of their work in the production of nuclear power, manufacture of nuclear weapons, processing of nuclear fuel, or nuclear reactor or weapons research.

Researchers say the radiation-related cancer risk estimates are two to three times higher than those based on Japanese atomic bomb survivors.

But they say their cancer risk estimates are consistent with current radiation-protection standards.

In addition, researchers say that in this study, less than 5% of nuclear industry workers received the maximum 100 millisieverts cumulative dose of radiation over their entire career, and most of those doses were received in the early days of the nuclear industry when radiation protection standards were less stringent.

Today on WebMD

Colorectal cancer cells
New! I AM Not Cancer Facebook Group
Lung cancer xray
See it in pictures, plus read the facts.
sauteed cherry tomatoes
Fight cancer one plate at a time.
Ovarian cancer illustration
Real Cancer Perspectives
Jennifer Goodman Linn self-portrait
what is your cancer risk
colorectal cancer treatment advances
breast cancer overview slideshow
prostate cancer overview
lung cancer overview slideshow
ovarian cancer overview slideshow
Actor Michael Douglas