Background: In contrast with established evidence linking high doses of ionizing radiation with childhood cancer, research on low-dose ionizing radiation and childhood cancer has produced inconsistent results.
Objective: We investigated the association between domestic radon exposure and childhood cancers, particularly leukemia and central nervous system (CNS) tumors.
Methods: We conducted a nationwide census-based cohort study including all children < 16 years of age living in Switzerland on 5 December 2000, the date of the 2000 census. Follow-up lasted until the date of diagnosis, death, emigration, a child’s 16th birthday, or 31 December 2008. Domestic radon levels were estimated for each individual home address using a model developed and validated based on approximately 45,000 measurements taken throughout Switzerland. Data were analyzed with Cox proportional hazard models adjusted for child age, child sex, birth order, parents’ socioeconomic status, environmental gamma radiation, and period effects.
Results: In total, 997 childhood cancer cases were included in the study. Compared with children exposed to a radon concentration below the median (< 77.7 Bq/m3), adjusted hazard ratios for children with exposure ≥ the 90th percentile (≥ 139.9 Bq/m3) were 0.93 (95% CI: 0.74, 1.16) for all cancers, 0.95 (95% CI: 0.63, 1.43) for all leukemias, 0.90 (95% CI: 0.56, 1.43) for acute lymphoblastic leukemia, and 1.05 (95% CI: 0.68, 1.61) for CNS tumors.
Conclusions: We did not find evidence that domestic radon exposure is associated with childhood cancer, despite relatively high radon levels in Switzerland.
Citation: Hauri D, Spycher B, Huss A, Zimmermann F, Grotzer M, von der Weid N, Weber D, Spoerri A, Kuehni C, Röösli M, for the Swiss National Cohort and the Swiss Paediatric Oncology Group (SPOG). 2013. Domestic radon exposure and risk of childhood cancer: a prospective census-based cohort study. Environ Health Perspect 121:1239–1244; http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.1306500