Neutron contamination in radiotherapy: Estimation of second cancers based on measurements in 1377 patients

Maite R. Expósito, Beatriz Sánchez-Nieto, José A. Terrón, Carles Domingo, Faustino Gómez, Francisco Sánchez-Doblado

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29 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose Second cancer, as a consequence of a curative intent radiotherapy (RT), represents a growing concern nowadays. The unwanted neutron exposure is an important contributor to this risk in patients irradiated with high energy photon beams. The design and development by our group of a neutron digital detector, together with the methodology to estimate, from the detector readings, the neutron equivalent dose in organs, made possible the unprecedented clinical implementation of an online and systematic neutron dosimetry system. The aim of this study was to systematically estimate neutron equivalent dose in organs of a large patient group treated in different installations. Patients and methods Neutron dosimetry was carried out in 1377 adult patients at more than 30 different institutions using the new neutron digital detector located inside the RT room. Second cancer risk estimates were performed applying ICRP risk coefficients. Results Averaged equivalent dose in organs ranges between 0.5 mSv and 129 mSv depending on the type of treatment (dose and beam-on time), the distance to isocenter and the linac model. The mean value of the second cancer risk for our patient group is 1.2%. Reference values are proposed for an overall estimation of the risks in 15 linac models (from 2.8 × 10-5 to 62.7 × 10-5 %/MU). Conclusions The therapeutic benefit of RT must outweigh the second cancer risk. Thus, these results should be taken into account when taking clinical decisions regarding treatment strategy choice during RT planning. © 2013 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)234-241
JournalRadiotherapy and Oncology
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2013


  • Neutron
  • Peripheral dose
  • Second cancer risk


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