Journal of Radiation and Cancer Research

: 2018  |  Volume : 9  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 128--129

Radiobiology and radiation hormesis: New evidence and its implications for medicine and society

Nagraj Huilgol 
 Department of Radiation Oncology, Nanavati Hospital, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Nagraj Huilgol
Department of Radiation Oncology, Nanavati Hospital, Mumbai, Maharashtra

How to cite this article:
Huilgol N. Radiobiology and radiation hormesis: New evidence and its implications for medicine and society.J Radiat Cancer Res 2018;9:128-129

How to cite this URL:
Huilgol N. Radiobiology and radiation hormesis: New evidence and its implications for medicine and society. J Radiat Cancer Res [serial online] 2018 [cited 2019 Jul 23 ];9:128-129
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Full Text

Author: Charles L. Sanders

Edition: First

Publisher: Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Year of Publication: 2017

Number of Pages: 273

ISBN: 978-3-319-56371-8

DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-56372-5

Price: NA


The book is a well-researched book on Hormesis by Charles L Sanders, arguably one of the vocal proponents of radiation hormesis. It is a single-author monograph dealing with the topic of hormesis from a historical perspective, epidemiological data of a bomb survivor, high-background areas, and medical uses. The idea of hormesis dates back to Hugo Schulz in 1888; though it first appeared in the scientific article in 1943, the article was published by Chester Southam and J Ehrlich. The book starts with a personal account of the history of radiation hormesis. Dr. Don Luckey who first researched on the benefits of low-dose ionizing radiation gets a mention. It is followed by case histories of people who received considerable radiation but went on to lead a full life. Luckey, himself who slept for many years next to radioactive granite, went on to live for 95 years. The first chapter Movers of radiation hormesis is replete with such anecdotal histories. Not surprisingly, those who suffered ill health, for instance Marie Curie, are not mentioned. The first chapter ends on a note of despair, “As a result of radiophobia, it has become more difficult to convince the public of enormous benefits of nuclear energy and medical applications of ionising radiation which far outweigh the so called associated risks, much less the benefits in disease prevention and therapy of LDR.” The first chapter sets the tone and tenor of the entire book, which is a mix of believer's assertions and hard data complemented with good analysis. No treaties on hormesis or adaptive response can ignore the event which triggered the debate and research in the biology of low-dose radiation (LDR). The author is at pains to inform the readers the genesis of radiophobia. Nuclear attack on Hiroshima and Nagasaki left a devastating trail of death and destruction. The deaths around the epicenter were due to thermal and nonthermal effects, while over 5% of it was due to immediate gamma and 10% of it was due to radioactive fallouts. It is the delayed effects of nuclear fallout which makes nuclear disaster different. The extent of delayed damage due to radioactive fallout is controversial. The birth of linear no-threshold (LNT) as a paradigm for radiation protection according to the author is based on the “radiophobia” whipped up by regulators. For instance, the UNSCEAR in 1985 reported an incidence of leukemia in Japanese. A- bomb survivors that was three times lower than in control at a mean dose of 20 m Gy and a threshold of 500m Gy. Yet, the UNSCEAR preferred to ignore this data set by deleting from the analysis. They only highlighted a marginal increase in the incidence of cancer at higher doses.

The subsequent chapter “Radiological weapons” deals with the development of nuclear weapons, atmospheric tests, predicted radiation effects of strategic nuclear war, and surviving nuclear war. This chapter deals briefly with the LNT model as adopted by the UNSCEAR. The concept of hormesis and J or hockey stick curve is introduced. Epidemiological statics of survival, leukemia, and other cancer is quoted to buttress the argument. The concept of radiophobia which is based on LNT model is criticized vociferously. Sanders calls LNT a major scientific scandal of the last two centuries. Michael Stabin of Vanderbilt University calls the LNT a “stupid bastard,” which is not intended as a “low-class slur” but a statement of fact. NCRP-136 wrote; “It is important to note that the rates of cancer in most populations exposed to so low level radiation have not been found to be detectably increased and that in most cases the rates have appeared to decease. However, today, neither ICRP nor NCRP promulgates radiation dose regulations that take in to account the benefits of LDR but continue to be prudent.” Miller quoted that “Torture numbers and they will confess to anything.” This chapter on statistical malfeasance deals with the choice of wrong null hypothesis, ''wasted dose'', by lagging and information bias leading to misclassification of either exposure or disease status. Overwhelming hermetic effects in radiation works as healthy worker effect (HWE) are briefly criticized. The following quote says it all “One must pose the difficult question of whether there is any serious evaluation of HWE or whether HWE is in effect a “Zombie science,” not supported by medical evidence but used dramatically to “eliminate” radiation hormesis as an explanation for decreased all cause mortality and all cancer mortality in epidemiological studies.” The book further deals with environmental plutonium following atmospheric testing, uranium mines, and environmental radon. The book also deals extensively with the use of ionizing radiation for benign illness from keloid and tinea capitis to intranasal radium for aerotitis media in submariners and aviators. The book also deals with bystander effect and LDR biology. The author goes on to suggest radiation spa for good health. He is convinced that LNT is market driven by vendors of radiation protectors.

The book is fairly exhaustive and written in a racy style. Quotes from Bible could have been avoided. Charles Sanders is an activist and scientist. The book is a testimony to that.