Space radiation and cataracts in astronauts

Radiat Res. 2001 Nov;156(5 Pt 1):460-6. doi: 10.1667/0033-7587(2001)156[0460:sracia];2.


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 paucity [corrected] of epidemiological data. Here we present epidemiological [corrected] 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 may predispose crew to [corrected] an increased incidence and early appearance of cataracts.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Astronauts*
  • Cataract / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Lens, Crystalline / radiation effects*
  • Linear Energy Transfer
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology*
  • Space Flight*