Few family physicians tell patients about the dangers of radon

Family physicians across the U.S. should discuss radon with their patients

By Janel Miller, Healio Primary Care

Exposure to the colorless, odorless gas called radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. and the leading cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers, according to the American Cancer Society.

The Environmental Protection Agency, HHS and CDC estimate that almost 7% of homes in the U.S. have “elevated” radon levels. Because many people are unaware of its health effects, some experts say that physicians have a responsibility to inform their patients about the dangers of radon exposure.

“Family physicians play a fundamental role in the prevention of radon-related lung cancer by educating their patients, guiding them about specific preventive actions, and advocating on patients’ behalf,” Juan Antonio Garcia-Rodriguez, MD, an assistant professor in the department of family medicine at the University of Calgary in Alberta, wrote in Canadian Family Physician.

However, recent survey results indicate that many family physicians do not talk to their patients about radon. Researchers administered the survey to 350 family physicians in North Dakota in 2020. They evaluated physicians’ radon knowledge through 12 true/false questions and measured physicians’ radon beliefs through 12 questions that were measured on one- to five-point Likert scales.

Among the 204 physicians who completed the survey, the researchers wrote in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine that 70% “correctly identified radon as radioactive;” 67% said they do not notify patients about radon; and 80% said they never talked about the combined hazards of radon and smoking with their patients. The survey also showed that 35% of family physicians tested their own homes for radon. Read More