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2012 Edition, January 1, 2012

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Uncertainties in the Estimation of Radiation Risks and Probability of Disease Causation (2012)

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Uncertainty is a measure of the lack of sureness or confidence in the results of measurements, the predictions of models or the conclusions of investigations. Uncertainty can arise from random (stochastic) variability or from the absence of relevant information or knowledge. Uncertainty analysis has become increasingly sophisticated and new methods are being developed and becoming available. The issue of uncertainty in estimation of radiation-induced risks of cancer, noncancer diseases, and heritable genetic effects analyzed in this Report is of great importance in evaluating the effects of ionizing radiation on human health, in decisions involving the safe use of ionizing radiation, in addressing public controversy and in the calculation of the probability of disease causation (assigned share) used in evaluating claims for compensation of workers who developed cancer after being exposed to radiation. This Report builds upon the analyses in NCRP Report No. 158 (2007) and NCRP Report No. 164 (2009) of sources and magnitude of uncertainties in the estimation of doses from external and internal sources of radiation. Topics addressed include uncertainties in: epidemiological methods; radiation dose estimation; selected radioepidemiological studies: atomic bomb survivors, Mayak workers, breast cancer cohorts, underground miners, populations exposed to indoor radon, and several other occupationally- and medically-exposed groups; cancer and noncancer health effects;heritable effects; risk assessments as applied to radiation protection; and excess lifetime risk projection and probability of causation of a specific disease. This Report also covers how animal and cellular data can be used in support of epidemiological studies, how dose-response relationships are generalized from one population to another, how meta-analyses and pooled analyses are applied, how dose uncertainty in epidemiological dose-response analyses are accounted for, and suggests several approaches that could reduce uncertainties in future investigations. The Report has something for everyone interested in radiation health effects, radiation protection and the application of radiation knowledge in radiation policy issues of societal importance.