Occupational exposure to ionizing radiation and risk of lymphoma subtypes: results of the Epilymph European case-control study

Environ Health. 2020 Apr 25;19(1):43. doi: 10.1186/s12940-020-00596-9.


Background: Evidence linking risk of lymphoma and B-cell lymphoma subtypes to ionizing radiation is inconclusive, particularly at low exposure levels.

Methods: We investigated risk of lymphoma (all subtypes), B-cell lymphomas, and its major subtypes, associated with low-level occupational exposure to ionizing radiation, in 2346 lymphoma cases and 2463 controls, who participated in the multicenter EpiLymph case-control study. We developed a job-exposure matrix to estimate exposure to ionizing radiation, distinguishing between internal and external radiation, and we applied it to the lifetime occupational history of study subjects, We calculated the Odds Ratio (OR) and its 95% confidence interval (95% CI) for lymphoma (all subtypes combined), B-cell lymphoma, and its major subtypes using unconditional, polytomous logistic regression adjusting for age, gender, and education.

Results: We did not observe an association between exposure metrics of external and internal radiation and risk of lymphoma (all subtypes), nor with B-cell lymphoma, or its major subtypes, at the levels regularly experienced in occupational settings. An elevated risk of diffuse large B cell lymphoma was observed among the most likely exposed study subjects with relatively higher exposure intensity, which would be worth further investigation.

Conclusions: Further investigation is warranted on risk of B cell lymphoma subtypes associated with low-level occupational exposure to external ionizing radiation, and to clarify whether lymphoma should be included among the cancer outcomes related to ionizing radiation.

Keywords: Diffuse large B cell lymphoma; Ionizing radiation; Lymphoma; Occupational exposure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Czech Republic / epidemiology
  • Female
  • France / epidemiology
  • Germany / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Ireland / epidemiology
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Lymphoma / epidemiology*
  • Lymphoma / etiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Radiation, Ionizing*
  • Risk Factors
  • Spain / epidemiology