Radiation effectiveness factors for use in calculating probability of causation of radiogenic cancers

Health Phys. 2005 Jul;89(1):3-32. doi: 10.1097/01.hp.0000154172.48895.45.


This paper presents so-called radiation effectiveness factors that are intended to represent the biological effectiveness of different radiation types, relative to high-energy Co gamma rays, for the purpose of estimating cancer risks and probability of causation of radiogenic cancers in identified individuals. Radiation effectiveness factors are expressed as subjective probability distributions to represent uncertainty that arises from uncertainties in estimates of relative biological effectiveness obtained from radiobiological studies of stochastic endpoints, limited data on biological effectiveness obtained from human epidemiological studies, and other judgments involved in evaluating the applicability of available information to induction of cancers in humans. Primarily on the basis of reviews and evaluations of available data by experts, probability distributions of radiation effectiveness factors are developed for the following radiation types: neutrons of energy less than 10 keV, 10-100 keV, 0.1-2 MeV (including fission neutrons), 2-20 MeV, and greater than 20 MeV; alpha particles of any energy emitted by radionuclides; photons of energy 30-250 keV and less than 30 keV; and electrons of energy less than 15 keV. Photons of energy greater than 250 keV and electrons of energy greater than 15 keV are assumed to have the same biological effectiveness as reference Co gamma rays and are assigned a radiation effectiveness factor of unity, without uncertainty. For neutrons and alpha particles, separate probability distributions of radiation effectiveness factors are developed for solid tumors and leukemias, and small corrections to represent an inverse dose-rate effect are applied to those distributions in cases of chronic exposure. A radiation effectiveness factor different from unity for 15-60 keV electrons is discussed but is not adopted due to a lack of relevant radiobiological data. Radiation effectiveness factors presented in this paper are incorporated in the Interactive RadioEpidemiological Program and were developed for use by The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and U.S. Department of Labor in evaluating claims for compensation for radiogenic cancers by workers at U.S. Department of Energy facilities.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms*
  • Body Burden
  • Causality
  • Cobalt Radioisotopes / analysis
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Gamma Rays
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological*
  • Models, Statistical
  • Neoplasms, Radiation-Induced / epidemiology*
  • Organ Specificity
  • Radiation Dosage
  • Radiation Monitoring / methods*
  • Radiation Protection / methods*
  • Relative Biological Effectiveness
  • Risk Assessment / methods*
  • Risk Factors
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Cobalt Radioisotopes