Background radiation impacts human longevity and cancer mortality: reconsidering the linear no-threshold paradigm

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11 Scopus citations


The current linear no-threshold paradigm assumes that any exposure to ionizing radiation carries some risk, thus every effort should be made to maintain the exposures as low as possible. We examined whether background radiation impacts human longevity and cancer mortality. Our data covered the entire US population of the 3139 US counties, encompassing over 320 million people. This is the first large-scale study which takes into account the two major sources of background radiation (terrestrial radiation and cosmic radiation), covering the entire US population. Here, we show that life expectancy, the most integrative index of population health, was approximately 2.5 years longer in people living in areas with a relatively high vs. low background radiation. (≥ 180 mrem/year and ≤ 100 mrem/year, respectively; p < 0.005; 95% confidence interval [CI]). This radiation-induced lifespan extension could to a great extent be associated with the decrease in cancer mortality rate observed for several common cancers (lung, pancreas and colon cancers for both genders, and brain and bladder cancers for males only; p < 0.05; 95% CI). Exposure to a high background radiation displays clear beneficial health effects in humans. These hormetic effects provide clear indications for re-considering the linear no-threshold paradigm, at least within the natural range of low-dose radiation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-195
Number of pages7
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2021


  • Background radiation
  • Cancer
  • Longevity
  • United States

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aging
  • Gerontology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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