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Finding Uncertainties that Cause the Age Dependence of Dose Limits to Be Immature

By Francis A. Cucinotta


Space radiation permissible exposure limits (PEL) are intended to set acceptable levels of cancer risks, and avoid any clinical significant non-cancer effects. The 1989 recommendation of the National Council of Radiation Protection and Measurements (NCRP) recommended a strong age dependence of dose limits that departed drastically from the then mature 1970 dose limits recommendations from the National Academy of Science, which were independent of age. In 2000, the NCRP recommended revised limits that showed a similar trend of risk with age to the 1989 report. In this model, the cancer risk per Sv varies by more than 2-fold for ages between 30- and 50-yr. Therefore for galactic cosmic rays exposure, astronaut age has a larger influence on risk then radiation shielding mass or material composition, vehicle propulsion method, or position in the solar cycle. For considering the control of mission costs and resources, the possibility of using astronaut age as a trade variable in mission design could be considered. However, the uncertainties in describing the age dependence on risk have not been fully explored. We discuss biological factors that influence the age dependence of radiation risks, including susceptibility, expression and latency, and radiation quality. These factors depend not only on the individual s age, but also their genetic sensitivity and interaction with other environmental factors. Epidemiological data is limited in describing the age dependence on risk. The 2005, BEIR VII report recommends an age dependence for cancer risk attributable solely to the life-table disagreeing strongly with the NCRP model. However, BEIR VII also noted the limited power of human data for concomitantly describing both age and age after exposure dependences of cancer risks. Many experimental studies have shown that high LET radiation (e.g., high charge and energy (HZE) nuclei and neutrons) display reduced latency compared to low LET radiation, suggesting distinct biological factors are important. We discuss potential molecular mechanisms that would influence the age dependence of radiation risks. A probability distribution function for the uncertainties in age-dependence of risk models is described and predictions for Mars missions discussed. Our report suggests that theoretical considerations based on new experimental studies are needed to ensure the correct age dependence in space radiation risk models and the resulting Astronaut PEL

Topics: Space Radiation
Year: 2007
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