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Friday, 7 June, 2002, 12:19 GMT 13:19 UK
Radon cancer fears dismissed
Radon gas warning leaflet
Radon gas occurs naturally in the environment
There is no evidence of a link between radon gas in homes and cancer in children, according to scientists.

A major study carried out in the UK found levels of radon gas and gamma radiation were no higher in the homes of children with cancer compared to those who are healthy.

There have been fears that high levels of radon gas and gamma radiation in some areas of the country were putting children at risk.


It is reassuring to know that commonly encountered levels of radon gas and gamma radiation appear not to put children at risk

Dr David Grant, Leukaemia Research Fund
Radon gas occurs naturally and is found in many homes in some parts of the country, particularly in Devon and Cornwall. Rocks in these areas also emit high levels of gamma radiation.

Cancer study

Scientists from the UK Childhood Cancer Study, measured radon and gamma rays in the bedrooms and living rooms of 2,226 children with cancer and 3,773 healthy children.

They carried out detailed statistical analysis, in order to assess whether there was a link between cases of cancer and above average levels of radiation.

They also divided the children with cancer into six groups, depending on the nature of the disease, to see if radiation levels might influence some types of cancer but not others.

However, none of the six groupings - which included acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, brain tumours and Hodgkin's disease - showed an increasing trend between levels of radiation and rate of disease.

This was true even in areas with high levels of both radon gas and gamma radiation.

Writing in the British Journal of Cancer, the scientists said the findings suggested the risks of children developing cancer did not seem to be related to increasing radiation levels in the home.

Professor Sir Richard Doll, chairman of the study group said the findings should reassure parents.

"Previous research has been inconclusive, so it's not surprising that parents have been worried.

"This study is the first in the UK to measure domestic levels of radiation and relate them to children's cancer risk, and it's pleasing to be able to ease those fears."

Reassuring

Professor Doll, who is based at the University of Oxford, added: "Although some areas have higher levels of radon or gamma radiation than others, the differences don't seem to be big enough to produce a detectable effect.

"That suggests that background radiation is not playing as large a role as some people have feared."

Dr David Grant, scientific director of the Leukaemia Research Fund, said: "The first question parents often ask when their child is diagnosed with leukaemia is 'why?'

"People quite naturally turn to their immediate environment for answers, but it is reassuring to know that commonly encountered levels of radon gas and gamma radiation appear not to put children at risk."

See also:

04 May 01 | Northern Ireland
Homeowners unaware of radon risks
24 May 00 | Health
Natural gas 'a cancer menace'
28 Jun 99 | Medical notes
Radon
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