Radiation literature survey
The radiation literature survey provides updates on published literature related to radiation (both ionising and non-ionising) and health.
Published literature includes articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals, scientific-body reports, conference proceedings, etc.
The updates on new radiation literature that are of high quality and of public interest will be published as they arise. For each update, a short summary and a link to the abstract or to the full document (if freely available) are provided. The update may also include a commentary from ARPANSA and links to external websites for further information. The links may be considered useful at the time of preparation of the update however ARPANSA has no control over the content or currency of information on external links. Please see the ARPANSA website disclaimer.
Explanations of the more common terms used in the updates are found in the glossary.
The radiation literature that is listed in the updates is found by searching various databases and is not exhaustive.
The intention of the radiation literature survey is to provide an update on new literature related to radiation and health that may be of interest to the general public. ARPANSA does not take responsibility for any of the content in the scientific literature and is not able to provide copies of the papers that are listed.
Visit the National Library of Australia Australian Government Web Archive to access archived information no longer available on our website.
Application of sunscreen during childhood could reduce the risk of melanoma in adults
Watts et al
This was a population-based, case-control study that investigated the role of sunscreen use during childhood in reducing the incidence of melanoma in adults. The cases were aged between 18 and 39 years and had received a diagnosis of first primary melanoma between July 2000 and December 2002. The cases were compared with one group of unrelated controls comprising of individuals selected from the electoral roll combined with nominated friends or spouses, and another group consisting of siblings of the cases. Information on sun exposure was self-reported. Participants also provided information about their demographics (e.g. education level), ethnicity, family history of melanoma, sunbed use and other risk factors in addition to self and parent reported sunscreen use.
The analysis included data for 603 cases and 1088 controls. The authors reported that the risk of melanoma was less with higher sunscreen use in childhood (odds ratio, OR: 0.60; 95% confidence interval, CI, 0.42-0.87) and use across a lifetime (OR, 0.65: 95% CI, 0.45-0.93). More specific analysis indicated that sunscreen use was more protective for people that reported they were prone to blistering sunburn, had some or many nevi and had received a diagnosis of melanoma at a younger age. There was no association with lifetime sun exposure and melanoma risk, however, when sun exposure unprotected by sunscreen was taken into account, it was reported that there was a significant risk of melanoma (OR, 1.80; 95% CI 1.22-2.65). This association was especially stronger for people with lighter pigmented skin or some or many nevi using sunscreen to stay out in the sun for longer.
The results of the study were able to demonstrate the protective effect of childhood sunscreen use in reducing the risk of melanoma. It was also able to identify personal risk factors for melanoma (skin colour, sun exposure behaviour). The study was limited in not being able to determine whether sunscreen was applied effectively. Also, sunscreen during the data period was commonly rated at SPF8 compared to the SPF30+ types in current use. However, it is possible that the higher SPF sunscreens would show a higher protective effect. Further, exposure to solar ultraviolet radiation was characterised by self-reported time in the sun. This limits reliability and introduces potential misclassification of the exposure data. The results strengthen the advice from both ARPANSA and Cancer Council that sunscreen use is an effective measure in preventing skin cancer.
Can alarmist messages exacerbate a nocebo response?
Verrender et al
Environmental Research, June 2018
This was a human provocation study that investigated if messages emphasizing adverse health effects of radiofrequency (RF) electromagnetic field (EMF) can exacerbate a nocebo response. Of the participants, 22 watched an alarmist video and 22 a control video before receiving both sham and real RF-EMF exposure. The participants that watched the alarmist video when they were exposed to RF-EMF, reported a statistically significant increase in subjective symptoms, anxiety state and risk perception. There was no significant difference between the sham exposure and real RF exposure for symptoms or belief of exposure reported by participants. The authors concluded these results suggest that it is belief of exposure, not the RF-EMF exposure itself, which was sufficient to trigger symptoms in healthy participants.
Negative symptoms attributed to RF exposure can have serious effects on the wellbeing of individuals. However, current scientific evidence suggests that RF exposure is not the cause of electromagnetic hypersensitivity symptoms. The evidence from double-blind provocation studies have previously shown that belief of exposure is sufficient to induce symptoms via a nocebo effect (SCENIHR, 2013).
European Commission reports that LEDs may affect sleep quality and lead to distraction
Scientific Committee on Health, Environment and Emerging Risks (SCHEER)
European Commission's website, June 2018
The SCHEER conducted an extensive literature review to assess the potential health risks from exposure to light emitting diodes (LEDs). Exposures included the use of LED display technology (smartphones, tablets and computer screens) and emissions from LED lights found in toys, car lighting and lamps for area illumination. Effects were assessed separately for the general population and in vulnerable and susceptible populations (e.g. children and the elderly).
The review concluded that, for normal use of LED displays and lamps, there was no evidence of any adverse health effects. However, there was some evidence to suggest that these types of exposures in the late evening may impact the circadian rhythm (sleep/wake cycle). This is thought to be due primarily to the blue light components of the emissions from the displays. At this time, it is unclear if this disturbance leads to any adverse health effects.
Although emissions from LEDs, including those found in children’s toys, may not be harmful, the committee concluded that blue LEDs may be dazzling to young children and may potentially induce photochemical retinopathy (light induced damage to the retina). This is due to the structure of children’s eyes making them more sensitive to blue light, especially under the age of three. Also, it was concluded that older people may experience discomfort from exposure to LEDs rich in light due to the effects of scattering. Due to flickering in some models of LEDs, there have been reports of stroboscopic effects which make moving objects appear stationary or as a series of stationary images when viewed under these types of lighting systems. The combination of these effects may lead to distraction or disorientation resulting in indirect safety concerns.
Finally, because LED technology is still evolving, the committee considered it important to monitor the risk of adverse health effects in the general population.
Although there is research showing potential health effects from LED sources, these occurred at exposure levels that were greater than those likely to occur with the use of LEDs in practice.
The potential disruption of the circadian rhythm in humans supports reducing the use of LED displays in the late evening, or engaging functions such as “night-shift” for reducing the intensity of the blue light from the display.
Cancer prevalence among flight attendants compared to the general population
McNeely et al
Environmental Health, June 2018
This was a retrospective cross-sectional study that investigated the prevalence of specific cancers within flight attendants in the U.S. compared to the general population. Data on cancer prevalence was gathered by surveys returned from 5366 flight attendants and 2729 controls matched by similar socioeconomic status. The study reported a higher prevalence in flight attendants compared to the general population for breast cancer (risk estimate 1.51 with a 95% confidence interval (CI) of 1.02-2.24), melanoma (2.27, 95% CI 1.27-4.06) and non-melanoma cancer (4.09, 95% CI 2.70-6.20). There were no statistically significant associations with the other cancers examined (uterine, cervical, gastrointestinal and thyroid). The authors concluded that there was a higher prevalence of specific cancers within the flight attendant occupation than the general population.
Although the authors reported an elevated risk of some cancers in the flight attendant cohort, these associations were based on prevalence of the disease compared to the general population. Prevalence of disease is limited in that it measures the occurrence of a disease at a point in time. Although this can serve as an indicator of the disease, the evidence supporting the associations is weakened by a limited understanding of how the disease rates changed over time. A better indication of the risk factors would have been achieved by measuring the incidence of the cancers examined where cases would have been recorded over the time period.
The study relied on tenure in the occupation as a surrogate for exposure. The authors identified a number of known and probable carcinogens that flight attendants would be exposed including ionising radiation, circadian rhythm disruptions from night shift work, irregular schedules and crossing time zones and, poor cabin air quality such as second hand tobacco smoke from before the implementation of smoking bans. The authors also identified but did not adjust for confounders such as recreational ultraviolet radiation exposure.
Overall, the results of the study were consistent with similar studies but given it’s limitations further studies with improved methods are required. In Australia, ARPANSA is involved in a study lead by QIMR Berhofer Medical Research Institute, investigating the incidence of melanoma in commercial pilots in Australia. The first results from this research are expected later in 2018.
Study shows the best way to apply sunscreen to reduce the risk of skin cancer.
Young et al
Acta Dermat Venereol, June 2018
This was an in vivo study investigating the effect of sunscreen application in preventing human skin DNA damage that potentially is the basis for most skin cancers. A sunscreen with a very high level of UV protection (SPF 50+) was applied to 16 healthy young subjects with Fitzpatrick skin phototypes I and II. Sunscreen was applied at thicknesses of 0.75, 1.3 and 2.0 milligrams per square centimetre of skin (mg/cm2). The volunteers were split into two exposure groups; a group that received a single UV radiation exposure (acute exposure group) and a group that received a daily UV radiation exposure for 5 consecutive days (repeated exposure group). UV radiation exposure was provided artificially with characteristics closely matching sun exposure. The acute exposure group received 30 standard erythema doses (SED) per sunscreen application thickness. The repeated exposure group received 15 SEDs daily for all application thicknesses to simulate a typical holiday exposure at a tropical latitude. The repeated exposure group also received 30 SEDs daily at an additional site with a 2 mg/cm2 sunscreen thickness. Unprotected skin was exposed to 4 SEDs in the acute exposure group and 1 SED daily in the repeated exposure group for experimental control.
The authors reported that sunscreen significantly reduced DNA damage at application thicknesses of 1.3 and 2.0 mg/cm2. Application thickness of 0.75 mg/cm2, representative of typical application, was only significant in reduction of DNA damage in the repeated exposure group.
The study showed that the use of a very high SPF factor sunscreen can inhibit DNA damage in human skin caused by exposure to UV radiation. Although typical sunscreen application showed some value in providing UV protection in people going out in the sun for consecutive days, the importance of better sunscreen application was supported by the reduction of DNA damage in going out in the sun on occasion.
Overall, the results reported by the authors support ARPANSA’s sun protection messaging. Further, the study emphasises the importance of communicating the most appropriate way to apply sunscreen to offer the best protection outcomes.
Study reports that precautionary information on wireless devices does not trigger the nocebo effect
Boehmert C, Verrender A, Pauli M, Wiedemann P.
Environmental Health 2018
This was a double-blind provocation study investigating the association between providing precautionary information on electromagnetic fields (EMF) and the nocebo response. The study included 73 participants who received basic information on the use of Wi-Fi and 64 controls who received basic and precautionary information. All subjects were then sham exposed to EMF three times and asked if they could perceive the field or experience any health symptoms. There was no statistical significant difference between the risk perceived when given basic information or basic plus precautionary information. The authors concluded that precautionary information does not trigger the nocebo effect.
The nocebo effect is the unspecified adverse effect caused by the expectation or belief that something is harmful to health, this can result in negative symptoms for individuals. It has been suggested that in electromagnetic hypersensitivity the belief of exposure is enough to cause symptoms and the nocebo effect may play a role in their development (SCENIHR 2009).
Estimates of Environmental Exposure to Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields and Risk of Lymphoma Subtypes
Satta G, Mascia N, Serra T, Salis A, Saba L, Sanna S, Zucca MG, Angelucci E, Gabbas A, Culurgioni F, Pili P
Radiation research. 2018 Mar 16;189(5):541-7
This was a case-control study that investigated the association between exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EME) from broadcast and mobile phone antennas and risk of lymphoma. The study included 322 cases and 444 controls. Exposure to RF was assessed via self-reported and quantified distance from the RF transmitters to the residential address and some residential measurements. There was an association between self-reported residential distances less than 50 meters (odds ratio 2.7, 95% confidence interval 1.5-4.6). However there was no statistically significant association with any type of lymphoma when exposure was assessed via quantifying distance to addresses or residential measurements. The authors concluded that there was no association between RF-EME exposure from mobile phone antennas and lymphoma development.
The evidence on the effects of RF fields and human health has been reviewed recently by the European Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENHIR, 2015). SCENHIR concluded that there is no substantiated evidence that exposure to RF from base stations and broadcast antennas increases cancer risk.
French health agency provides advice on electromagnetic hypersensitivity
The French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety (ANSES)
ANSES Scientific Edition
The French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety (ANSES) at the end of March 2018 published the results of its expert appraisal on electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS). It was acknowledged that current scientific evidence shows no cause and effect link between the symptoms of EHS and electromagnetic fields and that it is only possible to identify EHS individuals by their self-reporting. Regardless of this ANSES stated that the suffering and pain of those who declare themselves EHS is real and has significant impact on their daily lives. ANSES recommended suitable training for health and social services professionals to ensure suitable care and counselling for people declaring themselves EHS and for better coordination between facilitators of their care. It was also highlighted that further research is needed and that it should be performed in consultation with the EHS community. ANSES said that long-term funding is required for research on the health effects of electromagnetic fields including long-term studies performed under controlled experimental conditions.
The findings of the expert appraisal by ANSES is in-line with the position of ARPANSA as found on our website and the full news release from ANSES can be found on their website.
Cataract Risk in a Cohort of U.S. Radiologic Technologists Performing Nuclear Medicine Procedures
Marie-Odile Bernier, Neige Journy, Daphnee Villoing, Michele M. Doody, Bruce H. Alexander, Martha S.Linet, Cari M. Kitahara
Radiology: Vol 286: Number 2
In 2011, the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) made changes to their recommendations for the annual limit of ionising radiation exposure to the lens of the eye for occupational workers. The new limit was 20 mSv per annum, averaged over defined periods, with no year exceeding 50 mSv. This adjustment was due to epidemiological evidence relating to tissue reaction effects for doses to the lens of the eye and possible cataract formation.
Researchers in the USA carried out a prospective study in the years 2003-2005 and 2012-2013 and published the findings. The purpose of the research was to estimate the risk of cataract incidents in a cohort of nuclear medicine (NM) technologists based on their work histories and radiation protection practices. Findings indicated an increased risk of cataracts observed among U.S. radiologic technologists who had performed an NM procedure at least once. The study recommended future studies incorporating estimated lens doses.
Previous work in the area of eye dosimetry internationally has been centred on image-guided x-ray interventional procedures (IGIP) that make use of high dose angiographic acquisitions and/or CT fluoroscopy guided interventions1 with the emphasis for the need for optimisation of protection measures with respect to the lens of the eye. Recommendations that staff wear appropriate eye protection and use protective screens have been made. In Australia currently there is no requirement for medical staff to wear eye dosimeters to measure the radiation exposure to the lens of eye. Furthermore, no research has taken place to estimate the doses these people receive and in particular staff that use unsealed radiopharmaceuticals. Based on the published paper above, Australia may have an opportunity to contribute to international knowledge by carrying out clinical surveys and providing analysis of data from across the country.
 COUNCIL DIRECTIVE 2013/59/EURATOM - "interventional radiology" means the use of X-ray imaging techniques to facilitate the introduction and guidance of devices in the body for diagnostic or treatment purposes.
Solarium Use and Risk for Malignant Melanoma: Meta-analysis and Evidence-based Medicine Systematic Review
Burgard B, Schöpe J, Holzschuh I, Schiekofer C, Reichrath S, Stefan W, Pilz S, Ordonez-Mena J, März W, Vogt T, Reichrath J
Anticancer Research: International journal of Cancer Research and Treatment, February 2018; 38 (2) : 591 - 1219
Burgard et al conducted a meta-analysis of solarium use and the risk of malignant melanoma. The authors identified 2 cohort and 29 case-control studies that were deemed eligible for the meta-analysis. These studies included 11,706 malignant melanoma cases and 93,236 controls. The studies covered in the meta-analysis were primarily from Europe, North America and Australia.
The authors found that the data support an association between solarium use and malignant melanoma (Odds Ratio, OR=1.19; 95% Confidence Interval, CI=1.04-1.35). In addition, there was a higher association for high exposure to ultraviolet radiation from a solarium (>10 sessions in a lifetime) and melanoma risk (OR=1.43; 95% CI=1.17-1.74). This supports the existence of a dose-response relationship (i.e. the more UV exposure in a solarium, the higher the risk of melanoma). The authors also reported that they found an association between first exposure to ultraviolet radiation from a solarium before age 25 years and melanoma risk (OR=1.59; 95% CI=1.38-1.83).
Despite these findings, the authors concluded that the papers that were included in the analysis were of poor quality and had high risk of bias supporting these associations. Consequently, the meta-analysis concluded that there was no scientific evidence that moderate/responsible solarium use increases the risk of melanoma.
Based on the reported associations between solarium use and malignant melanoma, the scientific evidence supports Australia’s nation-wide policy to ban all commercial solaria.