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Ionizing Radiation May Increase Cardiovascular Risk

Last Updated: January 15, 2010.

Exposure to ionizing radiation may be associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, according to a study published online Jan. 14 in BMJ.

FRIDAY, Jan. 15 (HealthDay News) -- Exposure to ionizing radiation may be associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, according to a study published online Jan. 14 in BMJ.

Yukiko Shimizu, Ph.D., of the Radiation Effects Research Foundation in Hiroshima, Japan, and colleagues analyzed 1950 to 2003 data on 86,611 Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bomb survivors, including approximately 9,600 who died from stroke and 8,400 who died from heart disease.

The researchers found that an elevated risk for stroke and heart disease was associated with exposure to radiation doses above 0.5 Gy, but observed an unclear degree of risk associated with lower doses. They also found that stroke and heart disease combined accounted for about one-third the number of radiation-associated excess deaths in atomic bomb survivors as cancer.

"Shimizu and colleagues' study adds to a growing body of evidence suggesting an association between cardiovascular disease and exposure to low-moderate levels of radiation, as well as the well known (and mechanistically well understood) association at high doses," states the author of an accompanying editorial. "However, statistical associations do not prove a causal association, and it is unclear whether the biological mechanisms operating at high doses of radiation apply to low doses. Although new mechanisms for the effect of low dose radiation on the cardiovascular system have been recently proposed, they have yet to be experimentally tested. This should be the focus of future research."

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