Findings were based on a study of records of more than 175,000 radiation workers on the National Registry for Radiation Workers, which suggest that high doses of more than 0.6 Sieverts could triple the risk of leukaemia.
The risk of cancer excluding leukaemia increased by 20% after radiation doses higher than 0.6 Sieverts, according to the research.
Workers in the study were employed by organisations such as the Atomic Weapons Establishment, British Nuclear Fuels plc, the Ministry of Defence, Rolls Royce Submarines and the UK Atomic Energy Authority.
Analysis began from either the start of radiation work, the date from which radiation data became available, or 1 January 1995, whichever was the later.
The follow up period ended at the date of death, the worker’s 85th birthday or 1 January 2002.
The research also showed overall mortality among the group was lower than in the general population, which was put down to a ‘healthy worker effect’ because severely ill or disabled people were precluded from becoming radiation workers.
Report author Dr Colin Muirhead, from the Health Protection Agency, said: ‘The results confirm the cancer risk estimated observed in other studies even though, overall, radiation workers have lower cancer risks than the general population.’
British Journal of Cancer (2009) 100: 206-212