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blood cancer

Study raises renewed radon concerns

A new study about the role radon might play in blood cancers is raising renewed attention for the colorless, odorless gas.

Radon occurs naturally in the atmosphere from the decay of uranium and radium in the soil. When it is able to seep in through cracks in a house’s foundation and becomes trapped, it can accumulate in levels considered dangerous to people.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has said for decades that radon is the second most frequent cause of lung cancer — behind only cigarette smoking — and is estimated to cause 21,000 lung cancer deaths a year in the U.S. Experts say it is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers.

A study by the American Cancer Society now indicates exposure to high radon levels could increase the risk of hematologic cancers — common blood cancers including bone marrow and lymph node cancers.

Radon in Home Now Linked to Blood Cancers in Women

Residential exposure to radon, a known carcinogen for lung cancer, has now been shown to increase the risk for hematologic malignancies in women, although not in men. The increase in risk was seen after even moderate levels of exposure, according to a large prospective study of the general population in the United States.

The results were published online March 22 in Environmental Research.

"Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer and now we have this second set of cancers that we think is associated with even moderate levels of radon," said lead researcher Lauren Teras, PhD, strategic director of hematologic cancer research at the American Cancer Society (ACS) in Atlanta.

People should test their homes and follow the remediation procedure recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). "Once they have gone through the process, people can eliminate or vastly reduce their exposure to radon," she told Medscape Medical News.