A Look at the Grouping Effect on Population-level Risk Assessment of Radon-Induced Lung Cancer

  •  Jing Chen    
  •  Deborah Moir    


On the basis of considerable knowledge gained by studying health effects in uranium and other underground miners who worked in radon-rich environments, radon exposure has been identified as a cause of lung cancer. Recent pooled analyses of residential studies have shown that radon poses a similar risk of causing lung cancer in the general public when exposure occurs at generally lower levels found in homes. With the increasing accessibility of statistical data via the internet, people are performing their own analyses and asking why, in some cases, the lung cancer occurrence at the community level does not correlate to the radon levels. This study uses statistical data available to the general public from official websites and performs simple analyses. The results clearly show the difficulty in linking observed lung cancer incidence rates at the provincial/territorial level, with possible cause, such as smoking or radon exposure. Even the effect of smoking, a well-documented cause of lung cancer, can be overlooked or misinterpreted if the data being investigated is too general (i.e., summary data at population level) or is influenced by other factors. These difficulties with simple comparisons are one of the main reasons that epidemiological studies of lung cancer incidence and radon exposure requires the use of cohorts or case controls at the individual level as opposed to the more easily performed ecological studies at the population level.

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