Cancer mortality risk among military participants of a 1958 atmospheric nuclear weapons test

Am J Public Health. 1995 Apr;85(4):523-7. doi: 10.2105/ajph.85.4.523.


Objectives: This study was undertaken to determine if Navy veterans who participated in an atmospheric nuclear test in 1958 were at increased risk of death from certain cancers.

Methods: Cancer mortality risk of 8554 Navy veterans who participated in an atmospheric nuclear test in the Pacific was compared with that of 14,625 Navy veterans who did not participate in any test. Radiation dosage information was obtained from film badges for 88% of the test participants.

Results: The median radiation dose for the test participants was 388 mrem (3.88 millisieverts [mSv]). Among participants who received the highest radiation dose (> 1000 mrem, or 10 mSv), an increased mortality risk for all causes (relative risk [RR] = 1.23; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.04, 1.45), all cancers (RR = 1.42; 95% CI = 1.03, 1.96), and liver cancer (RR = 6.42; 95% CI = 1.17, 35.3) was observed. The risk for cancer of the digestive organs was elevated among test participants (rate ratio = 1.47; 95% CI = 1.06, 2.04) but with no significant dose-response trend. Many of the cancers of a priori interest were not significantly elevated in the overall test participant group or in the group that received the highest radiation dose.

Conclusions: Most of the cancers suspected of being radiogenic were not significantly elevated among the test participants. Nevertheless, increased risks for certain cancers cannot be ruled out at this time. Veterans who participated in the nuclear weapons tests should continue to be monitored.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Cohort Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Military Personnel*
  • Naval Medicine*
  • Neoplasms, Radiation-Induced / mortality*
  • Nuclear Warfare*
  • Pacific Islands
  • Radiation Dosage
  • Radioactive Fallout / adverse effects*
  • Risk Factors
  • United States


  • Radioactive Fallout