Pre-natal irradiation and childhood malignancy: a review of British data from the Oxford Survey

Br J Cancer. 1975 Mar;31(3):271-87. doi: 10.1038/bjc.1975.62.


This paper reviews data relating to obstetric radiography from the Oxford Survey of Childhood Cancers, i.e. for deaths in Britain from 1953 to 1967. Some 8513 cases were traced and used in the analyses, together with an equal number of matched controls. The relative risk estimate (1-47 overall) does not vary significantly between different tumour groups, for different ages at death, nor between sexes. Other epidemiological factors-sibship position, maternal age, social class, region of residence and maternal morbidity-are analysed and show varying degrees of association, but not sufficient to "explain" the observed risk in terms of a selection effect. The dependence of the risk on the number of films exposed is highly significant and adequately described by a linear relationship. The timing of and reason for the exposure are also examined. Analysis of the risk by year of birth shows a pattern of steadily declining risk for both solid and haematopoietic tumours; this may be partly attributable to lower radiation doses per film exposed but is also due to the smaller numbers of films used. A consequence may well be that the risk-always of small clinical significance-would become virtually undetectable in future investigations.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Birth Order
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Radiation
  • Female
  • Fetus / radiation effects*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Leukemia, Radiation-Induced / mortality
  • Male
  • Maternal Age
  • Neoplasms, Radiation-Induced / mortality*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Trimester, First
  • Radiation Effects*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk
  • Social Class
  • Time Factors
  • United Kingdom