Analysis of secondary electron emission spectra of equal-LET protons and α particles for purposes of radiation quality and spaceflight hazard assessment
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Amongst the great variety of heavy particles present in the galactic and solar cosmic ray spectra, hydrogen and helium nuclei are significantly more abundant than all other heavier ions and, as such, represent a major radiation hazard to humans in space. Experimental data have suggested that differences in relative biological effectiveness (RBE) exist between the two species at the same value of linear energy transfer (LET). This has consequences for heavily ionising radiation protection procedures, which currently still assume a simple dependence of radiation quality on LET. By analysing the secondary electron (δ-ray) emission spectra of protons and α particles, in terms of the spatial characteristics of energy deposition in cellular targets and the likelihood of complex lesion formation, a numerical quantity representing biological effectiveness is generated. When expressed relative to a reference radiation, this quantity is found to differ for protons and α particles of the same LET, demonstrating not only the ion-specific nature of RBE but also the inadequacy of specifying radiation quality as a function of LET only. Such a method for numerically assessing radiation quality may have implications for procedures for heavy ion protection in space at low doses and for understanding the initial mechanisms of radiation action.
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Advances in Space Research, 2005, 35 pp. 300 - 304