Occupational radiation exposure and risk of cataract incidence in a cohort of us radiologic technologists

Mark P. Little, Cari M. Kitahara, Elizabeth K. Cahoon, Marie Odile Bernier, Raquel Velazquez-Kronen, Michele M. Doody, David Borrego, Jeremy S. Miller, Bruce H Alexander, Steven L. Simon, Dale L. Preston, Nobuyuki Hamada, Martha S. Linet, Craig Meyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


It has long been known that relatively high-dose ionising radiation exposure ([ 1 Gy) can induce cataract, but there has been no evidence that this occurs at low doses (\ 100 mGy). To assess low-dose risk, participants from the US Radiologic Technologists Study, a large, prospective cohort, were followed from date of mailed questionnaire survey completed during 1994–1998 to the earliest of self-reported diagnosis of cataract/cataract surgery, cancer other than non-melanoma skin, or date of last survey (up to end 2014). Cox proportional hazards models with age as timescale were used, adjusted for a priori selected cataract risk factors (diabetes, body mass index, smoking history, race, sex, birth year, cumulative UVB radiant exposure). 12,336 out of 67,246 eligible technologists reported a history of diagnosis of cataract during 832,479 person years of follow-up, and 5509 from 67,709 eligible technologists reported undergoing cataract surgery with 888,420 person years of follow-up. The mean cumulative estimated 5-year lagged eye-lens absorbed dose from occupational radiation exposures was 55.7 mGy (interquartile range 23.6–69.0 mGy). Five-year lagged occupational radiation exposure was strongly associated with self-reported cataract, with an excess hazard ratio/mGy of 0.69 9 10-3 (95% CI 0.27 9 10-3 to 1.16 9 10-3, p \ 0.001). Cataract risk remained statistically significant (p = 0.030) when analysis was restricted to \ 100 mGy cumulative occupational radiation exposure to the eye lens. A non-significantly increased excess hazard ratio/mGy of 0.34 9 10-3 (95% CI-0.19 9 10-3 to 0.97 9 10-3, p = 0.221) was observed for cataract surgery. Our results suggest that there is excess risk for cataract associated with radiation exposure from low-dose and low dose-rate occupational exposures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1179-1191
Number of pages13
JournalEuropean Journal of Epidemiology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was funded by the Intramural Research Program of the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health. CM was supported by a training grant from Midwest Center for Occupational Safety and Health CDC/NIOSH 2T42 OH008434. The views expressed herein by the authors are independent of all funding agencies.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018, Springer Science and Business Media B.V.. All rights reserved.


  • Cataract
  • Cataract surgery
  • Diabetes
  • Ionising radiation
  • Low dose rate
  • Questionnaire-based assessment
  • Threshold
  • Tissue reaction effects


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