Radon Exposure and Smoking 

Smokers are especially sensitive to radon as their lungs are already damaged. The negative effects of radon and smoking are more than additive, essentially being 1+1=15.7 in terms of relative risk of lung cancer.

  1. Like radon, tobacco smoke contains cancer-causing compounds (carcinogens) that cause DNA damage. The carcinogens in tobacco are different to the particle radiation from radon, and cause different but equally serious types of DNA damage that, over the long term, increase the frequency and severity of genetic mutations.
  2. The DNA damage-induced genetic mutations caused by radon and tobacco together has a greater than additive synergistic effect . on cancer risk, meaning both the chances of cancer and the speed at which a cancer may arise will be higher and faster if a person is exposed to both together.
  3. Both males and females are at risk from the multiplying effects of tobacco and radon. Smokers who are exposed to radon are much more likely to develop lung cancer. It is hypothesized that a huge percentage of smokers might have only developed lung cancer following additional radon exposure.
What the science says:

Recent analysis of multiple different large European radon risk studies indicates that the lifetime risk of lung cancer following 200 Bq/m3 radon exposure increases by a factor of 15.7 if the individual is also a smoker.

Reference: Hunter et al. Calculation of lifetime lung cancer risks associated with radon exposure, based on various models and exposure scenarios. J Radiol Prot. 2015 Sep;35(3):539-55. 

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