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Theoretical calculations have shown that proton therapy can reduce the incidence of radiation-induced secondary malignant neoplasms (SMN) compared with photon therapy for patients with prostate cancer. However, the uncertainties associated with calculations of SMN risk had not been assessed. The objective of this study was to quantify the uncertainties in projected risks of secondary cancer following contemporary proton and photon radiotherapies for prostate cancer. We performed a rigorous propagation of errors and several sensitivity tests to estimate the uncertainty in the ratio of relative risk (RRR) due to the largest contributors to the uncertainty: the radiation weighting factor for neutrons, the dose-response model for radiation carcinogenesis and interpatient variations in absorbed dose. The interval of values for the radiation weighting factor for neutrons and the dose-response model were derived from the literature, while interpatient variations in absorbed dose were taken from actual patient data. The influence of each parameter on a baseline RRR value was quantified. Our analysis revealed that the calculated RRR was insensitive to the largest contributors to the uncertainty. Uncertainties in the radiation weighting factor for neutrons, the shape of the dose-risk model and interpatient variations in therapeutic and stray doses introduced a total uncertainty of 33% to the baseline RRR calculation. © 2010 Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine.

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Physics in Medicine and Biology

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