Contrapositive logic suggests space radiation not having a strong impact on mortality of US astronauts and Soviet and Russian cosmonauts

Sci Rep. 2019 Jul 4;9(1):8583. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-44858-0.


Space travelers are exposed to unique forms of ionizing radiation that pose potentially serious health hazards. Prior analyses have attempted to quantify excess mortality risk for astronauts exposed to space radiation, but low statistical power has frustrated inferences. If exposure to deep space radiation were causally linked to deaths due to two particular causes, e.g., cancer and cardiovascular disease, then those cause-specific deaths would not be statistically independent. In this case, a Kaplan-Meier survival curve for a specific cause that treats deaths due to competing causes as uninformative censored events would result in biased estimates of survival probabilities. Here we look for evidence of a deleterious effect of historical exposure to space radiation by assessing whether or not there is evidence for such bias in Kaplan-Meier estimates of survival probabilities for cardiovascular disease and cancer. Evidence of such bias may implicate space radiation as a common causal link to these two disease processes. An absence of such evidence would be evidence that no such common causal link to radiation exposure during space travel exists. We found that survival estimates from the Kaplan-Meier curves were largely congruent with those of competing risk methods, suggesting that if ionizing radiation is impacting the risk of death due to cancer and cardiovascular disease, the effect is not dramatic.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Astronauts*
  • Cause of Death
  • Cosmic Radiation / adverse effects*
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mortality
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Radiation Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Russia / epidemiology
  • Space Flight*
  • United States / epidemiology