The linear no-threshold model does not hold for low-dose ionizing radiation

Radiat Res. 2004 Oct;162(4):447-52. doi: 10.1667/rr3228.


Almost all of the data on the biological effects of ionizing radiation come from studies of high doses. However, the human population is unlikely to be exposed to such doses. Regulatory limits for radiation exposure are based on the linear no-threshold model, which predicts that the relationship between biological effects and radiation dose is linear, and that any dose has some effect. Chromosomal changes are an important effect of ionizing radiation because of their role in carcinogenesis. Here we exposed pKZ1 mice to single whole-body X-radiation doses as low as 1 microGy. We observed three different phases of response: (1) an induction of inversions at ultra-low doses, (2) a reduction below endogenous inversion frequency at low doses, and (3) an induction of inversions again at higher doses. These results do not fit a linear no-threshold model, and they may have implications for the way in which regulatory standards are presently set and for understanding radiation effects.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromosomes / radiation effects*
  • DNA / radiation effects
  • DNA Damage
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Radiation
  • Lead / analysis
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Inbred DBA
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Models, Genetic
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Mutagens
  • Radiation, Ionizing*
  • Radiometry
  • Spleen / radiation effects
  • Transgenes
  • X-Rays
  • beta-Galactosidase / metabolism


  • Mutagens
  • Lead
  • DNA
  • beta-Galactosidase