Cucinotta, F. A., Manuel, F. K., Jones, J., Iszard, G., Murrey, J., Djojonegro, B. and Wear, M. Space Radiation and Cataracts in Astronauts. Radiat. Res. 156, 460–466 (2001).
For over 30 years, astronauts in Earth orbit or on missions to the moon have been exposed to space radiation comprised of high-energy protons and heavy ions and secondary particles produced in collisions with spacecraft and tissue. Large uncertainties exist in the projection of risks of late effects from space radiation such as cancer and cataracts due to the absence of epidemiological data. Here we present the first epidemiological data linking an increased risk of cataracts for astronauts with higher lens doses (>8 mSv) of space radiation relative to other astronauts with lower lens doses (<8 mSv). Our study uses historical data for cataract incidence in the 295 astronauts participating in NASA's Longitudinal Study of Astronaut Health (LSAH) and individual occupational radiation exposure data. These results, while preliminary because of the use of subjective scoring methods, suggest that relatively low doses of space radiation are causative of an increased incidence and early appearance of cataracts.