Breast cancer incidence in U.S. radiologic technologists

Michele Morin Doody, D. Michal Freedman, Bruce H. Alexander, Michael Hauptmann, Jeremy S. Miller, R. Sowmya Rao, Kiyohiko Mabuchi, Elaine Ron, Alice J. Sigurdson, Martha S. Linet

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85 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND. Studies of atomic bomb survivors and medically exposed populations have demonstrated an increased risk of breast cancer associated with acute or protracted, intermediate-dose or high-dose, ionizing radiation; however, the risks associated with low-dose and low-dose-rate (protracted) exposures are less certain. METHODS. The authors evaluated incident breast cancer risks from 1983 to 1998 according to employment characteristics and a 4-level proxy index for cumulative radiation exposure based on 2 mail surveys among 56,436 U.S. female radiologic technologists who were certified from 1925 to 1980, adjusting for established breast cancer risk factors. RESULTS. During follow-up, 1050 new breast cancer diagnoses were ascertained. Compared with radiologic technologists who began working in 1970 or later, adjusted breast cancer risks for those who first worked in the 1960s, 1950s, 1940s, from 1935 to 1939, and before 1935 were 1.0 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.8-1.2), 1.2 (95% CI, 0.9-1.6), 1.0 (95% CI, 0.7-1.5), 1.8 (95% CI, 1.0-3.2), and 2.9 (95% CI, 1.3-6.2), respectively. The risk rose with the number of years worked before 1940 (P value for trend = .002) and was elevated significantly among those who began working before age 17 years (relative risk, 2.6; 95% CI, 1.3-5.1; 10 women) but was not related to the total years worked in the 1940s or later. Compared with technologists who had a Level 1 (minimal) proxy index for cumulative radiation exposure, breast cancer risks were 1.0 (95% CI, 0.9-1.2), 1.0 (95% CI, 0.7-1.3), and 1.5 (95% CI, 1.0-2.2), respectively, for technologists who had Level 2, Level 3, and Level 4 (highest) exposure. CONCLUSIONS. Breast cancer risk was elevated significantly in female radiologic technologists who experienced daily low-dose radiation exposures over several years that potentially resulted in appreciable cumulative exposure. The increased risk for total years worked before 1940, but not later, was consistent with decreasing occupational radiation exposures, improvements in radiation technology, and more stringent radiation protection standards over time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2707-2715
Number of pages9
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 15 2006


  • Breast cancer
  • Cohort studies
  • Epidemiology
  • Ionizing radiation
  • Radiation-induced neoplasms
  • Radiologic technologists


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