Age at death from a radiation-induced cancer based on the Marshall model for mortality period

Philip Thomas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
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Results presented elsewhere in this issue of Process Safety and Environmental Protection point to the radiation-induced loss of life expectancy following severe nuclear accidents being lower than generally feared. But this leaves open the question of the loss of life expectancy amongst radiation cancer victims, even if fortunately there are likely to be few of them. Addressing this question, the research presented here finds that the average radiation cancer victim will live into his or her 60s or 70s, depending on how long the radiation exposure lasts, based on data from the UK life tables. Between 8 and 22 years of life expectancy will be lost, well below the 42 years taken away on average by an immediately fatal accident, such as a car crash or rail crash. Not only are the results useful in their own right, but they inevitably call into question once again the concept of the Value of a Prevented Fatality still used for cost-benefit analyses in the UK on a "one size fits all" basis, which disregards the amount of life expectancy lost. This problem with applying the VPF in the context of radiological protection is additional to the gross flaws previously uncovered in the value assigned to the VPF in the UK. It is clear that the VPF should not be used as a criterion for cost-benefit analysis in radiological protection.

An important feature of the results presented is that they apply to any exposure to radiation between a point dose and a constant annual dose that does not cause radiation sickness. The figures presented, for both point and constant annual exposures, are equally valid whether the dose is a few mSv or a few hundred mSv. Nor is the outcome affected by the magnitude of the coefficient used to convert radiation dose into risk.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143–178
Number of pages36
JournalProcess Safety and Environmental Protection
Volume112 Part A
Early online date20 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018


  • Risk
  • radiation cancer
  • age at death
  • loss of life expectancy
  • value of a prevented fatality
  • VPF


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