WASHINGTON--Navy veterans exposed to nuclear bomb tests at Bikini
a half century ago have a higher death rate than sailors not present
at the tests. However, this increased mortality does not appear
to result from radiation exposure.
Researchers at the Institute of Medicine's Medical Follow-up Agency
drew on death certificates and other records to examine the mortality
of those present at the tests. The study assigned deaths to more
than 40 categories, but focused on three--all causes of death,
all cancers, and leukemia--under the assumption that if radiation
exposure caused death, mortality rates would be higher in the
all-cancers and leukemia categories.
The study found that exposed personnel died at a 4.6% higher rate
than nonexposed persons. However, deaths from all cancers and
leukemia, while slightly elevated among those present at the blasts,
were not significantly different from those of nonparticipants.
Moreover, the increases in the two categories were actually lower
than the increases in deaths found in some other categories. Interestingly,
the researchers discovered that men believed to have been exposed
to the highest radiation doses during the tests did not suffer
a high incidence of cancer or leukemia.