Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Toxicology rethinks its central belief

Hormesis demands a reappraisal of the way risks are assessed.

This is a preview of subscription content

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: Hypothetical curves depicting (a) threshold, (b) linear non-threshold, and (c) hormetic dose-response models using cancer (number of tumours per animal) as the endpoint.


  1. Luckey, T. D. Radiation Hormesis (CRC Press, Boca Raton, 1991).

    Google Scholar 

  2. Stebbing, A. R. D. Mutat. Res. 403, 249–258 (1998).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Calabrese, E. J. & Baldwin, L. A. Hum. Exper. Toxicol. 19, 2–31 (2000).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Calabrese, E. J. & Baldwin, L. A. Toxicol. Sci. 71, 246–250 (2003).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Calabrese, E. J. & Baldwin, L. A. (eds) Crit. Rev. Toxicol. 31, 349–669 (2001).

    Google Scholar 

  6. Callahan, B. G., Gaylor, D. & Stanek, E. J. (eds) Hum. Ecol. Risk Assess. 7, 779–942 (2001).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Renn, O. Hum Exper. Toxicol. 17, 431–438 (1998).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


Our work is sponsored by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. Our views do not necessarily represent those of the Air Force Office of Scientific Research or the US Government.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Calabrese, E., Baldwin, L. Toxicology rethinks its central belief. Nature 421, 691–692 (2003).

Download citation

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

Further reading


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing