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Tuesday, August 2nd by Iris Doubleday
A recent study by the American Cancer Society found a statistically-significant link between residential radon gas exposure and hematological (blood) cancer in women. While the study was released several months ago, the news is still spreading with growing concern about the health risks of radon exposure.
Radon is a naturally-occurring gas, an odorless byproduct of uranium decay in soil that can enter a home through the water and air that seeps through foundation cracks and other openings. High levels of radon are known to cause significant health risks; radon is one of the leading causes of lung cancer in the United States, second only to smoking. The new study has given even more reason to minimize residential radon exposure, as evidence shows that radon delivers a significant dose of alpha radiation to the bone marrow. This radiation increases the risk of blood cancer, particularly in women.
According to the American Cancer Society, women living in counties with the highest levels of radon concentration have a 63 percent higher risk of blood cancer than those living in counties with the lowest radon levels. Researchers found evidence of a dose-response relationship, showing that elevated radon levels cause an even greater risk to a home’s residents. One reason that residential radon may have a stronger impact on women is that men may have a higher baseline risk, possibly due to more exposure to occupational or other blood cancer risk factors. Researchers have theorized that if women have a smaller baseline risk, then residential radon would play a larger role in contributing to overall risk. Another theory is that women of the generation featured in the study may have spent more time in their homes, thereby increasing their residential radon exposure.
It’s important to remember that the new study is the first population-based study to make the association between residential radon exposure and blood cancer risk, and other studies have yet to provide further proof. Its authors have cautioned that further replication is needed to better understand the connection and whether it really differs by sex. Furthermore, according to one of the lead researchers, Dr. Lauren Teras, “the overall lifetime risk of hematological cancers in the United States is about two percent, so even a 60 percent relative increase would still mean a relatively small absolute risk.”
The good news is that radon is easily detected, and easily mitigated if high levels are found. If other studies are able to confirm the link between radon exposure and blood cancer, it would warrant stronger public health efforts to mitigate residential radon risks. Testing and preventing radon is a way to stop cancer before it starts, and homeowners can order a radon test kit to check their home’s radon levels.
If you’re interested in radon testing and prevention and want a professional opinion, National Radon Defense dealers can test your home for high levels of radon and help prevent any health risks. Contact your local radon contractor to schedule a test today!