Intended for healthcare professionals


Exposure to radiation and higher risk of circulatory disease

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: (Published 15 January 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:b4326
  1. Mark P Little, reader in statistics
  1. 1Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, Imperial College Faculty of Medicine, London W2 1PG
  1. mark.little{at}

    Evidence is clear for high doses, but less so for lower doses

    The main risk to people directly exposed to low doses of ionising radiation is usually assumed to be cancer. Various other effects (so called deterministic or tissue reaction effects) are seen with exposure to high doses of radiation, such as in patients treated with radiotherapy. In particular, various types of damage occur to the structures of the heart and to the coronary, carotid, and other large arteries.1 This damage is mainly caused by injury to the microvasculature, partly as a result of excessive cell killing (for example, of capillary cells) and the pro-inflammatory response to such damage, which leads to myocardial and other ischaemia.1

    Evidence that an excess risk of cardiovascular disease occurs a long time after exposure to lower doses of radiation has emerged from the Japanese atomic bomb survivor Life Span Study (LSS) …

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