Ann Occup Environ Med.  2018 ;30(1):9. 10.1186/s40557-018-0219-y.

Radiation-related occupational cancer and its recognition criteria in South Korea

  • 1National Radiation Emergency Medical Center, Korea Institute of Radiological & Medical Sciences, 75, Nowon-ro, Nowon-gu, Seoul, 01812 Republic of Korea.
  • 2Department of Preventive Medicine, Korea University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea.
  • 3Department of Occupational Medicine, Sungkyunkwan University, School of Medicine, Seoul, Korea.
  • 4The Institute for Occupational Health, Yonsei University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea.


Ionizing radiation is a well-known carcinogen, and is listed as one carcinogenic agent of occupational cancer. Given the increase in the number of workers exposed to radiation, as well as the increase in concern regarding occupational cancer, the number of radiation-related occupational cancer claims is expected to increase. Unlike exposure assessment of other carcinogenic agents in the workplace, such as asbestos and benzene, radiation exposure is usually assessed on an individual basis with personal dosimeters, which makes it feasible to assess whether a worker's cancer occurrence is associated with their individual exposure. However, given the absence of a threshold dose for cancer initiation, it remains difficult to identify radiation exposure as the root cause of occupational cancer. Moreover, the association between cancer and radiation exposure in the workplace has not been clearly established due to a lack of scientific evidence. Therefore, criteria for the recognition of radiation-related occupational cancer should be carefully reviewed and updated with new scientific evidence and social consensus. The current criteria in Korea are valid in terms of eligible radiogenic cancer sites, adequate latent period, assessment of radiation exposure, and probability of causation. However, reducing uncertainty with respect to the determination of causation between exposure and cancer and developing more specific criteria that considers mixed exposure to radiation and other carcinogenic agents remains an important open question.


Radiation exposure; Occupational cancer; Recognition; Korea

MeSH Terms

Radiation Exposure
Radiation, Ionizing
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