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Studies of underground miners occupationally exposed to radon have consistently demonstrated an increased risk of lung cancer in both smokers and non-smokers. Radon exposure also occurs elsewhere, especially in houses, and estimates based on the findings for miners suggest that residential radon is responsible for about one in 20 lung cancers in the UK, most being caused in combination with smoking. These calculations depend, however, on several assumptions and more direct evidence on the magnitude of the risk is needed. To obtain such evidence, a case-control study was carried out in south-west England in which 982 subjects with lung cancer and 3185 control subjects were interviewed. In addition, radon concentrations were measured at the addresses at which subjects had lived during the 30-year period ending 5 years before the interview. Lung cancer risk was examined in relation to residential radon concentration after taking into account the length of time that subjects had lived at each address and adjusting for age, sex, smoking status, county of residence and social class. The relative risk of lung cancer increased by 0.08 (95% CI -0.03, 0.20) per 100 Bq m(-3) increase in the observed time-weighted residential radon concentration. When the analysis was restricted to the 484 subjects with lung cancer and the 1637 control subjects with radon measurements available for the entire 30-year period of interest, the corresponding increase was somewhat higher at 0.14 per 100 Bq m(-3) (95% CI 0.01, 0.29), although the difference between this group and the remaining subjects was not statistically significant. When the analysis was repeated taking into account uncertainties in the assessment of radon exposure, the estimated increases in relative risk per 100 Bq m(-3) were larger, at 0.12 (95% CI -0.05, 0.33) when all subjects were included and 0.24 (95% CI -0.01, 0.56) when limited to subjects with radon measurements available for all 30 years. These results are consistent with those from studies of residential radon carried out in other countries in which data on individual subjects have been collected. The combined evidence suggests that the risk of lung cancer associated with residential radon exposure is about the size that has been postulated on the basis of the studies of miners exposed to radon.

Original publication




Journal article


Br J Cancer

Publication Date





394 - 408


Aged, Case-Control Studies, England, Environmental Exposure, Female, Housing, Humans, Lung Neoplasms, Male, Mathematics, Middle Aged, Radon, Risk Assessment, Smoking, Time Factors