The assumptions and effects of conservative procedures in low-dose risk assessment for setting safety standards

Harry James Norton, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Conservative procedures in low-dose risk assessment are used to set safety standards for known or suspected carcinogens. However, the assumptions upon which the methods are based and the effects of these methods are not well understood. To minimize the number of false-negatives and to reduce the cost of bioassays, animals are given very high doses of potential carcinogens. Results must then be extrapolated to much smaller doses to set safety standards for risks such as one per million. There are a number of competing methods that add a conservative safety factor into these calculations. A method of quantifying the conservatism of these methods was described and tested on eight procedures used in setting low-dose safety standards. The results using these procedures were compared by computer simulation and by the use of data from a large scale animal study. The method consisted of determining a "true safe dose" (tsd) according to an assumed underlying model. If one assumed that Y = the probability of cancer = P(d), a known mathematical function of the dose, then by setting Y to some predetermined acceptable risk, one can solve for d, the model's "true safe dose". Simulations were generated, assuming a binomial distribution, for an artificial bioassay. The eight procedures were then used to determine a "virtual safe dose" (vsd) that estimates the tsd, assuming a risk of one per million. A ratio R = ((tsd-vsd)/vsd) was calculated for each "experiment" (simulation). The mean R of 500 simulations and the probability R $<$ 0 was used to measure the over and under conservatism of each procedure. The eight procedures included Weil's method, Hoel's method, the Mantel-Byran method, the improved Mantel-Byran, Gross's method, fitting a one-hit model, Crump's procedure, and applying Rai and Van Ryzin's method to a Weibull model. None of the procedures performed uniformly well for all types of dose-response curves. When the data were linear, the one-hit model, Hoel's method, or the Gross-Mantel method worked reasonably well. However, when the data were non-linear, these same methods were overly conservative. Crump's procedure and the Weibull model performed better in these situations.

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Recommended Citation

Norton, Harry James, "The assumptions and effects of conservative procedures in low-dose risk assessment for setting safety standards" (1989). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9021996.