Can radon gas cause cancer?

  • Radon is a radioactive gas that can build up indoors. If indoor radon builds up to high levels it can increase the risk of lung cancer.
  • But a large majority of radon-related lung cancers are caused by a combination of smoking and indoor radon gas.
  • Average levels of indoor radon gas in most UK homes are low, but some areas may have higher levels.

What is radon gas?

Radon gas is a natural radioactive gas that comes from rocks and soils. Radon gas is found in the air at low levels outdoors, but it can sometimes build up to high levels indoors. When it builds up indoors, it can increase the risk of lung cancer.

What are the levels of radon gas in the UK?

The average level of radon gas in UK homes is low, but levels can naturally vary across the UK.

You can find out more about the levels of radon gas in your region on Public Health England’s UK Radon map.

What is the link between indoor radon gas and cancer?

Exposure to indoor radon gas is linked to 4% of lung cancer cases in the UK. The vast majority of radon-related lung cancers are caused by a combination of both indoor radon gas and smoking. This means that the most important thing people can do is to stop smoking.

I live in a high radon area. What can I do?

If you think you live or work in a high-radon area and you are worried about radon gas in your home or workplace, you can find out more information from your local authority or the UK Radon website. This has lots of information including how to order a radon gas risk report or measurement pack.

World Health Organisation (WHO) handbook on indoor radon: A public health persepctive. (2009)

International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). A review of human carcinogens: Radiation. Vol 100D (2012).

Darby, S. et al. Radon in homes and risk of lung cancer: collaborative analysis of individual data from 13 European case-control studies. BMJ 330, 223 (2005)

Brown, K. F. et al. The fraction of cancer attributable to known risk factors in England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and the UK overall in 2015. Br. J. Cancer. 118, 1130-1141 (2018)

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