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Members of the UK population receive radiation doses from a number of sources including cosmic radiation, from uranium, thorium and their decay products, particularly radon, and from medical sources. On average, members of the UK population receive an effective dose of about 200 mSv over their lifetime. This results in a risk of fatal cancer of about 1%. However, the radiation dose is not the same to all individuals. Some components give doses that vary systematically from one region to another. Doses may also vary greatly from one individual to another. The rate at which the dose is accumulated may vary as the individual ages. Different organs and tissues do not necessarily receive the same dose. This paper discusses these factors and attempts to quantify them. Cosmic rays deliver doses which vary little across the body or between individuals. Terrestrial gamma rays also deliver more or less uniform whole-body doses, but the difference between individuals can be greater. Radionuclides in food deliver doses which vary both across the body and between individuals. These variations are even more marked in the case of doses from radon and from medical exposures.

Original publication




Journal article


J Radiol Prot

Publication Date





257 - 276


Adult, Background Radiation, Child, Cosmic Radiation, Environmental Exposure, Food Contamination, Radioactive, Gamma Rays, Humans, Neoplasms, Radiation-Induced, Radiation Dosage, Radioisotopes, Radiometry, Radon, Risk Assessment, Risk Factors, United Kingdom