Lung cancer risk from radon in Ontario, Canada: how many lung cancers can we prevent?

Cancer Causes Control. 2013 Nov;24(11):2013-20. doi: 10.1007/s10552-013-0278-x. Epub 2013 Aug 28.


Purpose: To calculate the burden of lung cancer illness due to radon for all thirty-six health units in Ontario and determine the number of radon-attributable lung cancer deaths that could be prevented.

Methods: We calculated the population attributable risk percent, excess life-time risk ratio, life-years lost, the number of lung cancer deaths due to radon, and the number of deaths that could be prevented if all homes above various cut-points were effectively reduced to background levels.

Results: It is estimated that 13.6 % (95 % CI 11.0, 16.7) of lung cancer deaths in Ontario are attributable to radon, corresponding to 847 (95 % CI 686, 1,039) lung cancer deaths each year, approximately 84 % of these in ever-smokers. If all homes above 200 Bq/m(3), the current Canadian guideline, were remediated to background levels, it is estimated that 91 lung cancer deaths could be prevented each year, 233 if remediation was performed at 100 Bq/m(3). There was important variation across health units.

Conclusions: Radon is an important contributor to lung cancer deaths in Ontario. A large portion of radon-attributable lung cancer deaths are from exposures below the current Canadian guideline, suggesting interventions that install effective radon-preventive measures into buildings at build may be a good alternative population prevention strategy to testing and remediation. For some health units, testing and remediation may also prevent a portion of radon-related lung cancer deaths. Regional attributable risk estimates can help with local public health resource allocation and decision making.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Dose-Response Relationship, Radiation
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis
  • Environmental Exposure / prevention & control
  • Female
  • Health Surveys / methods
  • Health Surveys / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Lung Neoplasms / etiology
  • Lung Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Monte Carlo Method
  • Neoplasms, Radiation-Induced / epidemiology*
  • Neoplasms, Radiation-Induced / mortality
  • Neoplasms, Radiation-Induced / prevention & control
  • Ontario / epidemiology
  • Radioactive Pollutants / poisoning
  • Radon / poisoning*
  • Risk Assessment / methods
  • Risk Assessment / statistics & numerical data
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking
  • Survival Analysis
  • Survival Rate


  • Radioactive Pollutants
  • Radon