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Lung cancer risk from radon exposure in dwellings in Sweden: how many cases can be prevented if radon levels are lowered?

Journal article
Authors Gösta Axelsson
Eva M. Andersson
Lars Barregård
Published in Cancer Causes and Control
Volume 26
Issue 4
Pages 541-547
ISSN 0957-5243
Publication year 2015
Published at Institute of Medicine, Department of Public Health and Community Medicine, Section of Occupational and environmental medicine
Pages 541-547
Language en
Keywords radon, lungcancer, exponering, prevention
Subject categories Epidemiology, Environmental medicine


Residential exposure to radon is considered to be the second cause of lung cancer after smoking. The purpose of this study was to estimate the number of lung cancer cases prevented from reducing radon exposure in Swedish dwellings. METHODS: Measurements of indoor radon are available from national studies in 1990 and 2008 with 8992 and 1819 dwellings, considered representative of all Swedish dwellings. These data were used to estimate the distribution of radon in Swedish dwellings. Lung cancer risk was assumed to increase by 16 % per 100 becquerels per cubic meter (Bq/m(3)) indoor air radon. Estimates of future and saved cases of lung cancer were performed at both constant and changed lung cancer incidence rates over time. RESULTS: The arithmetic mean concentration of radon was 113 Bq/m(3) in 1990 and 90 Bq/m(3) in 2008. Approximately 8 % of the population lived in houses with >200 Bq/m(3). The estimated current number of lung cancer cases attributable to previous indoor radon exposure was 591 per year, and the number of future cases attributable to current exposure was 473. If radon levels above 100 Bq/m(3) are lowered to 100 Bq/m(3), 183 cases will be prevented. If levels >200 Bq/m(3) are lowered to 140 Bq/m(3) (mean in the present stratum 100-200 Bq/m(3)), 131 cases per year will be prevented. CONCLUSIONS: Although estimates are somewhat uncertain, 35-40 % of the radon attributed lung cancer cases can be prevented if radon levels >100 Bq/m(3) are lowered to 100 Bq/m(3).

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