Justification and optimization of radiation exposures: a new framework to aggregate arbitrary detriments and benefits

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Myriad radiation effects, including benefits and detriments, complicate justifying and optimizing radiation exposures. The purpose of this study was to develop a comprehensive conceptual framework and corresponding quantitative methods to aggregate the detriments and benefits of radiation exposures to individuals, groups, and populations. In this study, concepts from the ICRP for low dose were integrated with clinical techniques focused on high dose to develop a comprehensive figure of merit (FOM) that takes into account arbitrary host- and exposure-related factors, endpoints, and time points. The study built on existing methods with three new capabilities: application to individuals, groups, and populations; extension to arbitrary numbers and types of endpoints; and inclusion of limitation, where relevant. The FOM was applied to three illustrative exposure situations: emergency response, diagnostic imaging, and cancer radiotherapy, to evaluate its utility in diverse settings. The example application to radiation protection revealed the FOM’s utility in optimizing the benefits and risks to a population while keeping individual exposures below applicable regulatory limits. Examples in diagnostic imaging and cancer radiotherapy demonstrated the FOM’s utility for guiding population- and patient-specific decisions in medical applications. The major finding of this work is that it is possible to quantitatively combine the benefits and detriments of any radiation exposure situation involving an individual or population to perform cost-effectiveness analyses using the ICRP key principles of radiation protection. This FOM fills a chronic gap in the application of radiation-protection theory, i.e., limitations of generalized frameworks to algorithmically justify and optimize radiation exposures. This new framework potentially enhances objective optimization and justification, especially in complex exposure situations.

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Radiation and Environmental Biophysics

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