Strahlentherapie und Onkologie

, Volume 175, Supplement 2, pp 47–51 | Cite as

Risk assessment for cancer induction after low- and high-LET therapeutic irradiation

  • Hilde Engels
  • Hans G. Menzel
  • Pascal Pihet
  • André Wambersie


The risk of induction of a second primary cancer after a therapeutic irradiation with conventional photon beams is well recognized and documented. However, in general, it is totally overwhelmed by the benefit of the treatment. The same is true to a large extent for the combinations of radiation and drug therapy.

After fast neutron therapy, the risk of induction of a second cancer is greater than after photon therapy. Neutron RBE increases with decreasing dose and there is a wide evidence that neutron RBE is greater for cancer induction (and for other late effects relevant in radiation protection) than for cell killing. Animal data on RBE for tumor induction are reviewed, as well as other biological effects such as life shortening, malignant cell transformation in vitro, chromosome aberrations, genetic effects. These effects can be related, directly or indirectly, to cancer induction to the extent that they express a “genomic” lesion. almost no reliable human epidemiological data are available so far.

For fission neutrons a RBE for cancer induction of about 20 relative to photons seems to be a reasonable assumption. For fast neutrons, due to the difference in energy spectrum, a RBE of 10 can be assumed.

After proton beam therapy (low-LET radiation), the risk of secondary cancer induction, relative to photons, can be divided by a factor of 3, due to the reduction of integral dose (as an average).

The RBE of heavy-ions for cancer induction can be assumed to be similar to fission neutrons, i. e. about 20 relative to photons. However, after heavy-ion beam therapy, the risk should be divided by 3, as after proton therapy, due to the excellent physical selectivity of the irradiation. Therefore a risk 5 to 10 times higher than photons could be assumed.

This range is probably a pessimistic estimate for carbon ions since most of the normal tissues, at the level of the initial plateau, are irradiated with low-LET radiation.

Key Words

Cancer induction LET RBE Radiotherapy Microdosimetry 


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Copyright information

© Urban & Vogel 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hilde Engels
    • 1
    • 2
  • Hans G. Menzel
    • 3
  • Pascal Pihet
    • 4
  • André Wambersie
    • 1
  1. 1.Université Catholique de LouvainCliniques Universitaires St-LucBruxellesBelgium
  2. 2.Department of Radiation ProtectionStudiecentrum voor Kernenergie (SCK/CEN)MolBelgium
  3. 3.Radiation Protection Action, DG XIIEuropean CommissionBrusselsBelgium
  4. 4.Institut de Protection et de Sûreté NucléaireIPSNFontenay-aux-Roses CedexFrance

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