Studies of the mortality of atomic bomb survivors. Report 12, part II. Noncancer mortality: 1950-1990

Radiat Res. 1999 Oct;152(4):374-89.


This report updates the data on noncancer mortality for 86,572 atomic bomb survivors with dose estimates in the Radiation Effects Research Foundation's Life Span Study cohort. The primary analyses are based on more than 27,000 noncancer disease deaths that occurred in the cohort between October 1, 1950, and December 31, 1990, 30% more than in the previous report. The present analyses strengthen earlier findings of a statistically significant increase in noncancer disease death rates with radiation dose. Increasing trends are observed for diseases of the circulatory, digestive and respiratory systems. Rates for those exposed to 1 Sv are elevated about 10%, a relative increase that is considerably smaller than that for cancer. However, estimates of the number of radiation-related noncancer deaths in the cohort to date (140 to 280) are 50 to 100% of the number for solid cancer. The data do not yet clarify the shape of the dose response. There is no significant evidence against linearity, but the data are statistically consistent with curvilinear dose-response functions that posit essentially zero risk for doses below 0.5 Sv. Similarly, while the data are consistent with substantial variation in the excess relative risk with age at exposure or attained age, there is no statistically significant dependence on these factors. In view of the small relative risks and the lack of understanding of biological mechanisms, we emphasize consideration of whether the findings could be explained by misclassification, confounding or selection effects. Based on available data, we conclude that such factors are unlikely to fully explain the observed dose response. A significant dose response is also seen for deaths from blood diseases with an excess relative risk that is several times greater than that seen for solid cancer. Particular attention is paid to the possibility that this apparent effect is a consequence of the attribution of leukemia or other cancer deaths to noncancer blood diseases. We find that misclassification does not explain this excess risk. As in earlier reports, suicide rates tend to decrease with increasing dose.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Cause of Death*
  • Confounding Factors, Epidemiologic
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Radiation
  • Humans
  • Japan / epidemiology
  • Nuclear Warfare*
  • Risk Factors
  • Survivors