Chernobyl-related ionising radiation exposure and cancer risk: an epidemiological review

Lancet Oncol. 2002 May;3(5):269-79. doi: 10.1016/s1470-2045(02)00727-1.


The Chernobyl nuclear accident on 26th April, 1986, led to a massive release of radionuclides into the environment. Although vast areas of Europe were affected by Chernobyl-related ionising radiation, the accident had the greatest impact in Belarus, Ukraine, and the Russian Federation. Epidemiological studies that have investigated the link between the Chernobyl accident and cancer have largely focused on malignant diseases in children, specifically thyroid cancer and leukaemia. There is good evidence to suggest that rates of thyroid cancer in children from the countries that were formally part of the Soviet Union have risen as a consequence of the Chernobyl accident. The findings for childhood leukaemia are less conclusive. Overall rates for this disease do not seem to have been affected by the Chernobyl-related ionising radiation, but there may be a larger risk of infant leukaemia in contaminated areas of Europe. Among adult populations, there is no strong evidence to suggest that risk of thyroid cancer, leukaemia, or other malignant disease has increased as a result of the Chernobyl accident.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Air Pollution, Radioactive
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Radiation-Induced / epidemiology*
  • Leukemia, Radiation-Induced / etiology
  • Nuclear Reactors
  • Power Plants
  • Radiation, Ionizing
  • Radioactive Fallout
  • Radioactive Hazard Release*
  • Risk Factors
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / etiology
  • Ukraine / epidemiology


  • Radioactive Fallout