Studies of the mortality of atomic bomb survivors. Report 12, Part I. Cancer: 1950-1990

Radiat Res. 1996 Jul;146(1):1-27.


This continues the series of periodic general reports on cancer mortality in the cohort of A-bomb survivors followed by the Radiation Effects Research Foundation. The follow-up is extended by the 5 years 1986-1990, and analysis includes an additional 10,500 survivors with recently estimated radiation doses. Together these extensions add about 550,000 person-years of follow-up. The cohort analyzed consists of 86,572 subjects, of which about 60% have dose estimates of at least 0.005 Sv. During 1950-1990 there have been 3086 and 4741 cancer deaths for the less than and greater than 0.005 Sv groups, respectively. It is estimated that among these there have been approximately 420 excess cancer deaths during 1950-1990, of which about 85 were due to leukemia. For cancers other than leukemia (solid cancers), about 25% of the excess deaths in 1950-1990 occurred during the last 5 years; for those exposed as children this figure is nearly 50%. For leukemia only about 3% of the excess deaths in 1950-1990 occurred in the last 5 years. Whereas most of the excess for leukemia occurred in the first 15 years after exposure, for solid cancers the pattern of excess risk is apparently more like a life-long elevation of the natural age-specific cancer risk. Taking advantage of the lengthening follow-up, increased attention is given to clarifying temporal patterns of the excess cancer risk. Emphasis is placed on describing these patterns in terms of absolute excess risk, as well as relative risk. For example: (a) although it is becoming clearer that the excess relative risk for those exposed as children has declined over the follow-up, the excess absolute risk has increased rapidly with time; and (b) although the excess relative risk at a given age depends substantially on sex and age at exposure, the age-specific excess absolute risk depends little on these factors. The primary estimates of excess risk are now given as specific to sex and age at exposure, and these include projections of dose-specific lifetime risks for this cohort. The excess lifetime risk per sievert for solid cancers for those exposed at age 30 is estimated at 0.10 and 0.14 for males and females, respectively. Those exposed at age 50 have about one-third these risks. Projection of lifetime risks for those exposed at age 10 is more uncertain. Under a reasonable set of assumptions, estimates for this group range from about 1.0-1.8 times the estimates for those exposed at age 30. The excess life-time risk for leukemia at 1 Sv for those exposed at either 10 or 30 years is estimated as about 0.015 and 0.008 for males and females, respectively. Those exposed at age 50 have about two-thirds that risk. Excess risks for solid cancer appear quite linear up to about 3 Sv, but for leukemia apparent nonlinearity in dose results in risks at 0.1 Sv estimated at about 1/20 of those for 1.0 Sv. Site-specific risk estimates are given, but it is urged that great care be taken in interpreting these, because most of their variation can be explained simply by imprecision in the estimates.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Japan
  • Leukemia, Radiation-Induced / mortality*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms, Radiation-Induced / mortality*
  • Nuclear Warfare*
  • Risk
  • Sex Factors
  • Time Factors