Radiation and Environmental Biophysics

, Volume 44, Issue 4, pp 257–260 | Cite as

Linear-no-threshold is a radiation-protection standard rather than a mechanistic effect model

  • Joachim BreckowEmail author
Controversial Issue


The linear-no-threshold (LNT) controversy covers much more than the mere discussion whether or not “the LNT hypothesis is valid”. It is shown that one cannot expect to find only one or even the only one dose–effect relationship. Each element within the biological reaction chain that is affected by ionizing radiation contributes in a specific way to the final biological endpoint of interest. The resulting dose–response relationship represents the superposition of all these effects. Till now there is neither a closed and clear picture of the entirety of radiation action for doses below some 10 mSv, nor does clear epidemiological evidence exist for an increase of risk for stochastic effects, in this dose range. On the other hand, radiation protection demands for quantitative risk estimates as well as for practicable dose concepts. In this respect, the LNT concept is preferred against any alternative concept. However, the LNT concept does not necessarily mean that the mechanism of cancer induction is intrinsically linear. It could hold even if the underlying multi-step mechanisms act in a non-linear way. In this case it would express a certain “attenuation” of non-linearities. Favouring LNT against threshold-, hyper-, or sub-linear models for radiation-protection purposes on the one hand, but preferring one of these models (e.g. for a specific effect) because of biological considerations for scientific purposes on the other hand, does not mean a contradiction.


Radiation Protection Life Span Study Hormetic Effect Nuclear Worker Biological Argument 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Fachhochschule Gießen-FriedbergInstitut für Medizinische Physik und StrahlenschutzGießenGermany

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