No Cancer Mortality Increase Found From Exposure to Nuclear Bomb Tests

December 1, 1996

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.

WASHINGTON--Navy veterans exposed to nuclear bomb tests at Bikinia half century ago have a higher death rate than sailors not presentat the tests. However, this increased mortality does not appearto result from radiation exposure.

Researchers at the Institute of Medicine's Medical Follow-up Agencydrew on death certificates and other records to examine the mortalityof those present at the tests. The study assigned deaths to morethan 40 categories, but focused on three--all causes of death,all cancers, and leukemia--under the assumption that if radiationexposure caused death, mortality rates would be higher in theall-cancers and leukemia categories.

The study found that exposed personnel died at a 4.6% higher ratethan nonexposed persons. However, deaths from all cancers andleukemia, 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 lowerthan the increases in deaths found in some other categories. Interestingly,the researchers discovered that men believed to have been exposedto the highest radiation doses during the tests did not suffera high incidence of cancer or leukemia.