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Domestic radon exposure and risk of childhood cancer

English title Domestic radon exposure and risk of childhood cancer
Applicant Röösli Martin
Number 124951
Funding scheme ProDoc
Research institution Institut für Sozial- und Präventivmedizin Universität Basel Swiss TPH
Institution of higher education University of Basel - BS
Main discipline Cancer
Start/End 01.06.2009 - 30.06.2012
Approved amount 160'659.00
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All Disciplines (5)

Discipline
Cancer
Environmental Toxicology
Biophysics
Other disciplines of Environmental Sciences
Radiobiology

Keywords (10)

childhood cancer; childhood leukaemia; radon; ionizing radiation; environment; epidemiology; cohort study; exposure assessment; acute lymphoblastic leukaemia; exposure model

Lay Summary (English)

Lead
Lay summary
Residential radon is one of the most relevant sources of ionizing radiation in Switzerland. It is estimated to contribute to almost half of the average annual ionizing radiation dose of the Swiss population. High dose radioactivity is an established risk factor for childhood cancer, which is the second most common cause of death in children in developed countries. However, it is unclear whether lower doses due to residential radon exposure are a risk factor for childhood leukaemia. The aim of this project is first to develop a radon exposure model and to predict radon exposure at home for children in Switzerland. Second, we want to investigate whether indoor radon concentration increases the risk of childhood cancer in general and acute leukemia (ALL) in particular. A cohort study will be carried out to investigate this question. We will include in the cohort all children aged between 0 and 15 years and residents in Switzerland, born before the 4th of December 2000 (date of census). Follow-up will last until 31 December, 2007. An exposure model for domestic radon exposure will be developed using the radon data base of the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health and geographically referenced information (e.g. building register, geology). The radon database consists of indoor measurements for about 100,000 buildings in Switzerland. Additional 40,000 measurements that will be carried out in 2009 and 2010 by the Federal Office of Public Health will be used to validate the radon exposure model. This model will be used to assess individual exposure to radon at the place of residency for each child in the cohort. Established statistical methods for cohort studies will be used to evaluate a potential association between childhood cancer and residential radon exposure. This analysis will also consider other potentially relevant factors such as exposure to magnetic fields, socio-economic status or distance to streets (confounding factors). This study will add significant insight to the open issue whether low dose ionizing radiation is associated with childhood cancer. The study will be able to overcome major methodological limitations of most previous studies on that topic. This is done by taking into account confounders and the minimization of selection bias by preventing direct contact with study participants. The study will provide novel information relating to the exposure of the Swiss population to radon by combining available measurements with modeling. Radon represents a preventable exposure. Thus, the topic is of high public health relevance if radon is associated with childhood cancer.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Name Institute

Publications

Publication
A prediction model for assessing residential radon concentration in Switzerland.
Hauri Dimitri D, Huss Anke, Zimmermann Frank, Kuehni Claudia E, Röösli Martin (2012), A prediction model for assessing residential radon concentration in Switzerland., in Journal of environmental radioactivity, 112C, 83-89.

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
Landscape and Health: Effects, Potential and Strategies, 2nd International Conference, Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research 24.01.2012 Birmensdorf
Annual meeting of the international society on environment and epidemiology (ISEE), Barcelona, 13.09.2011 Barcelona
Swiss Public Health Conference 25.08.2011 Basel


Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
122873 CEFALO: An international case-control study on brain tumours in children and adolescents 01.02.2009 ProDoc
119477 SSPH+ PhD Program in Public Health 01.10.2008 ProDoc

Abstract

Background: Although cancer in children under 15 years of age is rare, it remains the second most common cause of death in children in developed countries and also accounts for a high burden of disability because of late-effects in survivors. There is evidence that radon exposure is associated with lung cancers in adults, but less is known with respect to the association with childhood cancers. One recent case-control study from Denmark reported elevated risks of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia associated with radon concentrations that were close to the median exposure in Swiss houses.Aims: To develop a radon exposure model and to predict domestic radon exposure for the Swiss childhood population. To investigate, whether indoor radon concentration increases the risk of childhood cancer in general; and of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) in particular. Methods: A prospective census-based cohort design will be used to investigate the potential association between radon exposure and childhood cancer. We will include in the cohort all children aged between 0 and 15 years, born before the 4th of December 2000 (date of census) and resident in Switzerland. Follow-up period will last until death, emigration or 31 December, 2007. The Swiss Childhood Cancer Registry (SCCR) will be used to identify eligible patients. In total, the study is expected to include roughly 1000 childhood cancer patients, including approximately 250 ALL patients. The Swiss National Cohort (SNC) data base will provide place of residency on the date of census for all children of the cohort, mortality and emigration data for calculation of follow-up time, and information about potential confounding factors such as socio-economic position or number of children in the household. The CANUPIS study (Childhood cancer and nuclear power plants in Switzerland) will provide residential history for all cancer patients.In order to assess individual exposure to radon at the place of residency, we will develop an exposure model for domestic radon exposure using the radon data base of the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health and geographically referenced information (e.g. floor, type of building, geology). The radon database consists of indoor measurements for about 100,000 buildings in Switzerland. Additional 40,000 measurements that will be carried out in 2009 and 2010 by the Federal Office of Public Health will be used to validate the radon exposure model. Exposure to spatially variable potential confounders such as power lines or distance to streets will be modelled using geographic information systems (GIS). The data will be analysed using established statistical methods for cohort studies, primarily via Cox regression models adjusted for potential confounders. Significance: This is a census-based cohort study with national coverage. Important potential confounders will be adjusted for and selection bias will be minimized because no direct contact with study participants is necessary. Residential history will be available for all cancer patients. Thus, this study will be able to overcome major methodological problems of most previous studies on that topic and add significant insight to the open issue whether low dose ionizing radiation is associated with childhood cancer.The study will also provide novel information relating to the exposure of the Swiss population to radon by combining available measurements with modelling. Radon represents a preventable exposure. It is estimated to contribute to roughly half of the average annual ionizing radiation dose in Switzerland. Thus, the topic is of high public health relevance if radon is associated with childhood cancer.PhD project: The PhD student will have four tasks: Firstly, he/she will develop a model to predict domestic radon exposure, using the already existing radon data base of the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health. Secondly, the model will be validated using additional measurements that will be available in 2010. Thirdly, population exposure will be predicted using the radon exposure model. Finally, the PhD student will analyse the association between radon exposure and incidence of childhood cancer. Schedule: the PhD project will start in April 2009 and last for 3 years.
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