The International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) recommended annual occupational dose limit is 20 mSv. Cancer mortality in Japanese A-bomb survivors exposed to less than 20 mSv external radiation in 1945 was analysed previously, using a latency model with non-linear dose response. Questions were raised regarding statistical inference with this model.
Cancers with over 100 deaths in the 0 - 20 mSv subcohort of the 1950-1990 Life Span Study are analysed with Poisson regression models incorporating latency, allowing linear and non-linear dose response. Bootstrap percentile and Bias-corrected accelerated (BCa) methods and simulation of the Likelihood Ratio Test lead to Confidence Intervals for Excess Relative Risk (ERR) and tests against the linear model.
The linear model shows significant large, positive values of ERR for liver and urinary cancers at latencies from 37 - 43 years. Dose response below 20 mSv is strongly non-linear at the optimal latencies for the stomach (11.89 years), liver (36.9), lung (13.6), leukaemia (23.66), and pancreas (11.86) and across broad latency ranges. Confidence Intervals for ERR are comparable using Bootstrap and Likelihood Ratio Test methods and BCa 95% Confidence Intervals are strictly positive across latency ranges for all 5 cancers. Similar risk estimates for 10 mSv (lagged dose) are obtained from the 0 - 20 mSv and 5 - 500 mSv data for the stomach, liver, lung and leukaemia. Dose response for the latter 3 cancers is significantly non-linear in the 5 - 500 mSv range.
Liver and urinary cancer mortality risk is significantly raised using a latency model with linear dose response. A non-linear model is strongly superior for the stomach, liver, lung, pancreas and leukaemia. Bootstrap and Likelihood-based confidence intervals are broadly comparable and ERR is strictly positive by bootstrap methods for all 5 cancers. Except for the pancreas, similar estimates of latency and risk from 10 mSv are obtained from the 0 - 20 mSv and 5 - 500 mSv subcohorts. Large and significant cancer risks for Japanese survivors exposed to less than 20 mSv external radiation from the atomic bombs in 1945 cast doubt on the ICRP recommended annual occupational dose limit.