Overview of Biological, Epidemiological, and Clinical Evidence of Radiation Hormesis

Int J Mol Sci. 2018 Aug 13;19(8):2387. doi: 10.3390/ijms19082387.


The effects of low-dose radiation are being increasingly investigated in biological, epidemiological, and clinical studies. Many recent studies have indicated the beneficial effects of low doses of radiation, whereas some studies have suggested harmful effects even at low doses. This review article introduces various studies reporting both the beneficial and harmful effects of low-dose radiation, with a critique on the extent to which respective studies are reliable. Epidemiological studies are inherently associated with large biases, and it should be evaluated whether the observed differences are due to radiation or other confounding factors. On the other hand, well-controlled laboratory studies may be more appropriate to evaluate the effects of low-dose radiation. Since the number of such laboratory studies is steadily increasing, it will be concluded in the near future whether low-dose radiation is harmful or beneficial and whether the linear-no-threshold (LNT) theory is appropriate. Many recent biological studies have suggested the induction of biopositive responses such as increases in immunity and antioxidants by low-dose radiation. Based on recent as well as classical studies, the LNT theory may be out of date, and low-dose radiation may have beneficial effects depending on the conditions; otherwise, it may have no effects.

Keywords: adaptive response; hormesis; low-dose radiation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms, Radiation-Induced / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms, Radiation-Induced / metabolism
  • Neoplasms, Radiation-Induced / pathology*
  • Nuclear Weapons
  • Oxidoreductases / metabolism
  • Radiation Dosage*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed


  • Antioxidants
  • Oxidoreductases