Vrijheid, M., Cardis, E., Blettner, M., Gilbert, E., Hakama, M., Hill, C., Howe, G., Kaldor, J., Muirhead, C. R., Schubauer-Berigan, M., Yoshimura, T., Ahn, Y-O., Ashmore, P., Auvinen, A., Bae, J-M., Engels, H., Gulis, G., Habib, R., Hosoda, Y., Kurtinaitis, J., Malker H., Moser, M., Rodriguez-Artalejo, F., Rogel, A., Tardy, H., Telle-Lamberton, M., Turai, I., Usel, M. and Veress, K. The 15-Country Collaborative Study of Cancer Risk among Radiation Workers in the Nuclear Industry: Design, Epidemiological Methods and Descriptive Results. Radiat. Res. 167, 361–379 (2007).
Radiation protection standards are based mainly on risk estimates from studies of atomic bomb survivors in Japan. The validity of extrapolations from the relatively high-dose acute exposures in this population to the low-dose, protracted or fractionated environmental and occupational exposures of primary public health concern has long been the subject of controversy. A collaborative retrospective cohort study was conducted to provide direct estimates of cancer risk after low-dose protracted exposures. The study included nearly 600,000 workers employed in 154 facilities in 15 countries. This paper describes the design, methods and results of descriptive analyses of the study. The main analyses included 407,391 nuclear industry workers employed for at least 1 year in a participating facility who were monitored individually for external radiation exposure and whose doses resulted predominantly from exposure to higher-energy photon radiation. The total duration of follow-up was 5,192,710 person-years. There were 24,158 deaths from all causes, including 6,734 deaths from cancer. The total collective dose was 7,892 Sv. The overall average cumulative recorded dose was 19.4 mSv. A strong healthy worker effect was observed in most countries. This study provides the largest body of direct evidence to date on the effects of low-dose protracted exposures to external photon radiation.