Oxygen enhancement ratio

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The Oxygen Enhancement Ratio (OER) or oxygen enhancement effect in radiobiology refers to the enhancement of therapeutic or detrimental effect of ionizing radiation due to the presence of oxygen. The effect is most notable in ionizing radiation dose.

The OER is traditionally defined as the ratio of radiation doses during lack of oxygen compared to no lack of oxygen for the same biological effect. This may give varying numerical values depending on the chosen biological effect. Additionally, OER may be presented in terms of hyperoxic environments and/or with altered oxygen baseline, complicating the significance of this value.

Radiation with higher linear energy transfer tends to have a lower OER.

Uses in medicine[edit]

The effect is used in medical physics to increase the effect of radiation therapy in oncology treatments. Additional oxygen abundance creates additional free radicals and increases the damage to the target tissue.

In solid tumors the inner parts become less oxygenated than normal tissue and up to three times higher dose is needed to achieve the same tumor control probability as in tissue with normal oxygenation.

See also[edit]


Eric J. Hall and Amato J. Giaccia: Radiobiology for the radiologist, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 6th Ed., 2006