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Radon and Lung Cancer


Monitoring and Assessment of Radon’s Role in Lung Cancer Occurrence in the Population of Troubled Regions of Kyrgyzstan

Tech Area / Field

  • INS-DET/Detection Devices/Instrumentation
  • ENV-MIN/Monitoring and Instrumentation/Environment
  • ENV-MRA/Modelling and Risk Assessment/Environment

3 Approved without Funding

Registration date

Leading Institute
Institute of Physics, Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek


  • Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Department of Radiology and Radiological Sciences, USA, TN, Nashville\nWismuth GmbH, Germany, Chemnitz\nCNRS/Université de Claude Bernard-Lyon 1 / Laboratoire de Physico-Chimie des Materiaux Luminescents, France, Lyon

Project summary

The project provides for monitoring of the radon level as the main radiation factor and evaluation of its role in the lung cancer occurrence among the people living in the radon-affected territory of residential area of Issyk-Kul lake (Kyrgyzstan).

Radiation effect of natural radiation sources on human health is a global problem. In particular, works within the framework of the International Radon Project have been started under the support of the World Health Organization since 2005. Goals of the project include collection of data on radon levels in various countries and investigation of link between the lung cancer and domestic exposure to radon. The Federal Target Program “Radon” has been adopted and implemented in the Russian Federation. At present, works aimed at the population protection against the natural radiation sources, including radon, are carried out within the framework of the Program “Nuclear and Radiation Safety of Russia”.

This sort of study has never been conducted in the Kyrgyz Republic, despite the fact that the largest part of the country’s territory and the majority of population, living on it, due to geological structure of the territory, are exposed to the negative factors of natural origin – the high background radiation. First radiometric studies were carried out in 1950s with the aim of radioactive ore prospecting. Later, many governmental and independent environmental organizations have tried to make a radiological and environmental assessment of the areas studied. However, they focused on uranium waste dumps and tailing pits. At the moment there is no objective information allowing to assess the radiation load from natural sources of ionizing radiation on the entire population of the Kyrgyz Republic and the residents of some regions.

According to the results of completed ISTC Project #KR-994 “Creation of Analytic and Information Base for Impact Environmental Monitoring of the Inhabited Area of the lake Issyk-Kul” and current ISTC Project #KR-1587 “Radioecological Center for the On-line Monitoring of Troublesome Areas of Kyrgyzstan Using Wireless Sensor Networks and Systems”, the average annual effective dose for Issyk-Kul oblast from all natural sources of ionizing radiation is 6.3 mSv/year. The annual effective dose from cosmic radiation, external radiation of radionuclides present in the undisturbed earth’s crust, building materials and internal radiation by long-lived natural radionuclides makes 1.70 mSv/year. This value is 1.5 higher than the world average value which is 1.15 mSv/year. The annual effective dose from radon and its decay products is 4.6 mSv/year. At the same the annual effective radiation dose from these sources 2.6 times exceeds the typical world average level of radiation from natural sources equal to 2.4 mSv/year.

The territory of Issyk-Kul oblast of Kyrgyzstan was declared a specially protected natural area. One of the reasons for choosing this region as an object of research was the potential radon hazard of the territory with the lack of information on radiological environment. The presence of higher levels of radon in the Issyk-Kul region was conditioned by geological features of the area and composition of rocks. The main source of radon in houses is the soil beneath the building. Less important, but at the same time rather significant sources of radon are building materials of mineral origin used during construction. In exceptional cases, they can dominate. For houses where water is supplied by artesian wells, the source of radon may be the water used for household and domestic needs. Issyk-Kul oblast has natural radon sources with high content of radon and uranium, which are used without control by local population for domestic and drinking purposes and for self-treatment (taking baths, swimming), which points to the lack of population awareness of the potential carcinogenic risks of radon.

It should be noted that methodological aspects of the radiological situation analysis in the areas with high level of population exposure to natural radiation sources have not been developed yet in Kyrgyzstan, there are no scientifically based methods of examination and assessment of population exposure doses in these regions and the common approach to measurements and analysis of their results has not been elaborated. Besides, methodological approaches to assessing potential hazard of the built-up area have not been fully worked out yet.

Since the levels of radon in houses of Issyk-Kul oblast residents may pose a real carcinogenic hazard to people living in there, it is necessary to carry out multifactorial cancer epidemiological research which would evaluate contribution of radon exposure and chronic inhalation exposure of the population inside houses to radon daughter decay products into the lung cancer incidence. Based on the multifactorial nature of cancers, the central issue while implementing the cancer epidemiological research project will be the quantitative assessment of role of each potential cancer risk factor (socio-domestic, industrial, environmental, radiological, medical and biological, including genetic (inherited) factors) in the lung cancer incidence. For systemic mathematical processing of the whole set of epidemiological data the discriminant analysis based on pattern recognition techniques will be applied.

Under a great number of cancer risk factors influencing the lung cancer development in the population living in the radon-affected area of the Issyk-Kul ​lake of Kyrgyzstan and the lack of financial resources channeled to their elimination, it is crucial to identify and single out the top priority risk factors and the measures for their elimination. As a result of the multifactorial analysis revealed during the cancer epidemiological study of cancer risk factors really existing in the territory of Issyk-Kul oblast, the predictive model will be created allowing to forecast and test scenarios of the most efficient preventive measures.

As a result of this project implementation, there will appear the informational basis for the development and implementation of scientifically based and efficient preventive anti-radon and anti-cancer programs in Issyk-Kul oblast of Kyrgyzstan and for making informed managerial decisions aimed at fighting cancers with due consideration for their priority and costs.


The International Science and Technology Center (ISTC) is an intergovernmental organization connecting scientists from Kazakhstan, Armenia, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Georgia with their peers and research organizations in the EU, Japan, Republic of Korea, Norway and the United States.


ISTC facilitates international science projects and assists the global scientific and business community to source and engage with CIS and Georgian institutes that develop or possess an excellence of scientific know-how.

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