February 8, 2013

Colloquium Speaker: John Boice

Dr. John Boice
Professor, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine
President, National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements
First Chief, Radiation Epidemiology Branch at NCI

John Boice is professor of Medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and President of the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements (NCRP), a Congressionally-chartered not for profit organization that supports the scientific and public aspects of radiation protection through independent analyses by leading scientists throughout the United States. He is an international authority on radiation effects and currently serves on the Main Commission of the International Commission on Radiological Protection, the US delegation to the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, and the US Congressionally mandated Veterans' Advisory Board on Dose Reconstruction.

During 27 years of service in the US Public Health Service, Boice developed and became the first chief of the Radiation Epidemiology Branch at the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Boice's seminal discoveries and over 440 publications have been used to formulate public health measures to reduce population exposure to radiation and prevent radiation-associated diseases.

In September 2011, he was an invited expert at the International Expert Symposium in Fukushima -- Radiation and Health Effects held in Fukushima City, Japan, and a Featured Speaker at the Department of Energy Integrated Safety Management Champions Workshop in Kennewick, WA. In June 2011, he presented a Plenary lecture at the Congress of Epidemiology in Montreal, Canada on “Fukushima is not Chernobyl”. In May 2011, he testified before the US House Committee on Science, Space and Technology on Nuclear Energy Risk Management. In March 2010, he delivered the Elis Berven Lecture at the Swedish Society of Oncology in Kalmar, Sweden on "Epidemiologic studies of second cancers following radiotherapy." In 2009, Boice delivered the Lauriston Taylor Lecture at the National Council on Radiation and Protection and Measurements’ annual meeting.

In 2008, Boice received the Harvard School of Public Health Alumni Award of Merit. He has also received the E.O. Lawrence Award from the Department of Energy -- an honor bestowed on Richard Feynman and Murray Gell-Mann among others -- and the Gorgas Medal from the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States. In 1999 he received the outstanding alumnus award from the University of Texas at El Paso (formerly Texas Western College).

Boice has a bachelor’s degree in Physics from the University of Texas at El Paso and a master’s degree in Nuclear Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He received a master’s degree in Medical Physics at Harvard and also a doctoral degree in Epidemiology at Harvard.

He currently directs the Genetic Consequences of Cancer Treatment study, supported by the NCI, to assess the possible genetic risks related to the curative treatments received by cancer survivors who are able to become pregnant. In cooperation with the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs, Boice initiated an NCI-funded study of atomic veterans who participated in any of the 230 atmospheric nuclear weapons tests between 1946 and 1958 at the Nevada Test Site or the Pacific Proving Grounds. In collaboration with the Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Boice has ongoing pilot efforts to study a Million US Radiation Workers and Veterans to examine the lifetime risk of cancer following relatively low-dose exposures received gradually over time.

Colloquium Topic: NCRP and the Study of a Million U.S. Radiation Workers and Veterans

The National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements (NCRP) is a Congressionally-chartered not for profit organization that supports the scientific and public aspects of radiation protection through independent analyses by leading scientists throughout the United States.  This past year the NCRP published reports on a broad range of topics including Investigation of Radiological Incidents (Report 173), Uncertainties in the Estimation of Radiation Risks and Probability of Disease Causation (Report 171), Second Primary Cancers and Cardiovascular Disease After Radiation Therapy (Report 170), Reference Levels and Achievable Doses in Medical and Dental Imaging (Report 172).  Ongoing Reports include Radiation Safety Aspects of Nanotechnology (SC2-6), Integrating Basic Science with Epidemiological Studies on Low-Dose Radiation Effects (SC1-21), Operation Tomodaichi Radiation Dose Assessment – Peer Review (SC6-8), Biological Effectiveness of Photons as a Function of Energy (SC1-20), Decision Making for Late-Phase Recovery from Nuclear or Radiological Incidents (SC5-1), Preconception and Postnatal Radiation Exposure: Health Effects and Protective Guidance (SC5-5), and U.S. Radiation Workers and Nuclear Weapons Test Participants: Radiation Dose Assessment.

The studies of the Japanese atomic-bomb survivors and patients who received radiological procedures and treatments have provided a wealth of knowledge on the late effects, mainly cancer, associated with moderate radiation doses received briefly at a high rate. But the issues faced today concern exposures delivered over years and not seconds, such as during occupation, medical imaging with computed tomography (CT) and nuclear medicine procedures, environmental releases such as occurred at the Fukushima accident, and the aftermath of a dirty-bomb terrorist detonation. The existing epidemiologic data on human health effects have been transformed and transported, modulated and manipulated, and there “may be” a procrustean problem of forced conformity to an arbitrary set of conditions when these data are generalized to diverse and healthy U.S. populations for risk assessment. The Million U.S. Worker Study is a national effort whose goal is to provide relevant, timely, and needed health data on the radiation risks derived from U.S. populations who received relatively high cumulative radiation doses, but delivered over many years and up to 70 years ago.  It includes the early Manhattan Project workers, atomic veterans who participated in aboveground nuclear weapons tests, early nuclear utility workers, industrial radiographers, and early medical workers.