Question of the Day – Monday April 16, 2018

Question – What is the concept of “effective dose” as applied to radiation protection and risk assessment?

Answer – The cited reference notesEffective dose was introduced by the ICRP for the single, over-arching purpose of setting limits for radiation protection. Effective dose is a derived quantity or mathematical construct and not a physical, measurable quantity. The formula for calculating effective dose to a reference model incorporates terms to ac- count for all radiation types, organ and tissue radiosensitivities, population groups, and multiple biological endpoints. The properties and appropriate applications of effective dose are not well understood by many within and outside the health physics profession; no other quantity in radiation protection has been more confusing or misunderstood. According to ICRP Publication 103, effective dose is to be used for “prospective dose assessment for planning and optimization in radiological protection, and retrospective demonstration of compliance for regulatory purposes.” In practice, effective dose has been applied incorrectly to predict cancer risk among exposed persons. The concept of effective dose applies generally to reference models only and not to individual subjects. While conceived to represent a measure of cancer risk or heritable detrimental effects, effective dose is not predictive of future cancer risk.” (Fisher DR and Fahey FH. Appropriate use of effective dose in radiation protection and risk assessment. 2017 Health Phys 113(2): 102-109)