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NIH Record - 75th Anniversary - National Institutes of Health

NCI Statistician Land Dies

Dr. Land poses with honorary plaque

An internationally acclaimed statistical expert on radiation risk assessment, Dr. Charles E. Land passed away on Jan. 25.

Dr. Charles E. Land, an internationally acclaimed statistical expert on radiation risk assessment, died Jan. 25 at his home in Portugal. He retired in August 2009 from his position as principal investigator in the Radiation Epidemiology Branch (REB) in NCI’s Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics after a 34-year career.

Land will be remembered not only for his pioneering work in modern radiation dose-response analysis and modeling of low-dose cancer risk, but also as a delightful, humble man who loved his family, Japan, music and his work. He was a generous mentor and beloved friend to his colleagues and many others. 

Land earned a Ph.D. in statistics from the University of Chicago and began his career studying radiation at the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission (ABCC) in Hiroshima, where he conducted the first dose-response analysis of cancer risk in the Life Span Study cohort of atomic bomb survivors.

In 1975, he joined NCI as a founding member of REB. He continued collaborating with the ABCC and its successor, the Radiation Effects Research Foundation, and led numerous other studies. In a series of seminal investigations, he and colleagues clarified the pattern of breast cancer risk associated with radiation exposure. These studies provided new mechanistic insights into breast carcinogenesis, while serving as the prototype for epidemiologic studies of other radiogenic cancers. 

His work on the probability of causation was critical for the U.S. workers radiation compensation program. The statistical models that he developed formed the basis for the online Interactive RadioEpidemiological Program, which is still in use today. Land was also instrumental in elucidating the cancer risk following radioactive fallout from the U.S. nuclear weapons testing program. In addition, he analyzed data for studies of global and other radioactive fallout scenarios and initiated a study of thyroid nodules among residents in radiation-contaminated Kazakhstan.

REB chief Dr. Amy Berrington said, “Charles was a deep thinker and great character who made important contributions to many areas of radiation research. I still refer frequently to his classic 1980 Science paper, where he elegantly explained the statistical and practical difficulties in low-dose radiation epidemiology.”

Land served on many radiation protection committees, including the Three Mile Island follow-up research subcommittee. His numerous honors included the NIH Director’s Award and NIH Merit Award and the NCI Charles Harkin Award for Research in Thyroid Cancer.

He is survived by his wife Vera and sons David and Graham.

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