Concepts and challenges in cancer risk prediction for the space radiation environment

Mary Helen Barcellos-Hoff, Eleanor A. Blakely, Sandeep Burma, Albert J. Fornace, Stanton Gerson, Lynn Hlatky, David G. Kirsch, Ulrike Luderer, Jerry Shay, Ya Wang, Michael M. Weil

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

78 Scopus citations


Abstract Cancer is an important long-term risk for astronauts exposed to protons and high-energy charged particles during travel and residence on asteroids, the moon, and other planets. NASA's Biomedical Critical Path Roadmap defines the carcinogenic risks of radiation exposure as one of four type I risks. A type I risk represents a demonstrated, serious problem with no countermeasure concepts, and may be a potential "show-stopper" for long duration spaceflight. Estimating the carcinogenic risks for humans who will be exposed to heavy ions during deep space exploration has very large uncertainties at present. There are no human data that address risk from extended exposure to complex radiation fields. The overarching goal in this area to improve risk modeling is to provide biological insight and mechanistic analysis of radiation quality effects on carcinogenesis. Understanding mechanisms will provide routes to modeling and predicting risk and designing countermeasures. This white paper reviews broad issues related to experimental models and concepts in space radiation carcinogenesis as well as the current state of the field to place into context recent findings and concepts derived from the NASA Space Radiation Program.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number68
Pages (from-to)92-103
Number of pages12
JournalLife Sciences in Space Research
StatePublished - Jul 1 2015


  • Cancer
  • Galactic cosmic radiation
  • Mouse models
  • Radiation quality
  • Risk modeling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Radiation
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Ecology


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