Archives of Toxicology

, Volume 89, Issue 4, pp 647–648 | Cite as

An abuse of risk assessment: how regulatory agencies improperly adopted LNT for cancer risk assessment

  • Edward J. Calabrese
Letter to the Editor, News and Views


The Genetics Panel of the National Academy of Sciences’ Committee on Biological Effects of Atomic Radiation (BEAR) recommended the adoption of the linear dose–response model in 1956, abandoning the threshold dose–response for genetic risk assessments. This recommendation was quickly generalized to include somatic cells for cancer risk assessment and later was instrumental in the adoption of linearity for carcinogen risk assessment by the Environmental Protection Agency. The Genetics Panel failed to provide any scientific assessment to support this recommendation and refused to do so when later challenged by other leading scientists. Thus, the linearity model used in cancer risk assessment was based on ideology rather than science and originated with the recommendation of the NAS BEAR Committee Genetics Panel. Historical documentation in support of these conclusions is provided in the transcripts of the Panel meetings and in previously unexamined correspondence among Panel members.


Mutation Linear non-threshold (LNT) Risk assessment Carcinogen Threshold dose response Ionizing radiation 



Research activities in the area of dose–response have been funded by the United States Air Force (FA9550-13-1-0047) and ExxonMobil Foundation over a number of years. However, such funding support has not been used for the present manuscript.

Conflict of interest

Author declares no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

204_2015_1454_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (268 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 267 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Public Health, Environmental Health Sciences, Morrill I, N344University of MassachusettsAmherstUSA

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