Lung cancer incidence attributable to residential radon exposure in Alberta in 2012.
CMAJ Open. 2017 Jun 28 ;5(2):E529-E534. PMID: 28663187
BACKGROUND: Radon is carcinogenic, and exposure to radon has been shown to increase the risk of lung cancer. The objective of this study was to quantify the proportion and number of lung cancer cases in Alberta in 2012 that could be attributed to residential radon exposure.
METHODS: We estimated the population attributable risk of lung cancer for residential radon using radon exposure data from the Cross-Canada Survey of Radon Concentrations in Homes from 2009-2011 and data on all-cause and lung cancer mortality from Statistics Canada from 2008-2012. We used cancer incidence data from the Alberta Cancer Registry for 2012 to estimate the total number of lung cancers attributable to residential radon exposure. Estimates were also stratified by sex and smoking status.
RESULTS: The mean geometric residential radon level in Alberta in 2011 was 71.0 Bq/m3 (geometric standard deviation 2.14). Overall, an estimated 16.6% (95% confidence interval 9.4%-29.8%) of lung cancers were attributable to radon exposure, corresponding to 324 excess attributable cancer cases. The estimated population attributable risk of lung cancer due to radon exposure was higher among those who had never smoked (24.8%) than among ever smokers (15.6%). However, since only about 10% of cases of lung cancer occur in nonsmokers, the estimated total number of excess cases was higher for ever smokers (274) than for never smokers (48).
INTERPRETATION: With about 17% of lung cancer cases in Alberta in 2012 attributable to residential radon exposure, exposure reduction has the potential to substantially reduce Alberta's lung cancer burden. As such, home radon testing and remediation techniques represent important cancer prevention strategies.