Purpose: To assess cancer risks in a population that received prolonged low dose-rate gamma-irradiation for about 10 years as a result of occupying buildings containing 60Co-contaminated steel in Taiwan.
Materials and methods: The cancer risks were compared with those populations with the same temporal and geographic characteristics in Taiwan by standardized incidence ratios (SIR), adjusted for age and gender. The association of cancer risks with excess cumulative exposure was further evaluated for their relative risks by the Poisson multiple regression analysis.
Result: A total of 7271 people were registered as the exposed population, with 101,560 person-years at risk. The average excess cumulative exposure was approximately 47.8 mSv (range < 1 - 2,363 mSv). A total of 141 exposed subjects with various cancers were observed, while 95 developed leukemia or solid cancers after more than 2 or 10 years initial residence in contaminated buildings respectively. The SIR were significantly higher for all leukemia except chronic lymphocytic leukemia (n = 6, SIR = 3.6, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.2 - 7.4) in men, and marginally significant for thyroid cancers (n = 6, SIR = 2.6, 95% CI 1.0 - 5.7) in women. On the other hand, all cancers combined, all solid cancers combined were shown to exhibit significant exposure-dependent increased risks in individuals with the initial exposure before the age of 30, but not beyond this age.
Conclusions: The results suggest that prolonged low dose-rate radiation exposure appeared to increase risks of developing certain cancers in specific subgroups of this population in Taiwan.