Further follow-up of New Zealand participants in United Kingdom atmospheric nuclear weapons tests in the Pacific

Cancer Causes Control. 1997 Mar;8(2):139-45. doi: 10.1023/a:1018407927076.


We previously reported a study of deaths and cancer incidence in Royal New Zealand (RNZ) Navy personnel who participated in atmospheric nuclear weapons tests conducted by the United Kingdom in the Pacific in 1957-58. The study involved 528 men known to have participated in the tests, and a control group of 1,504 men who were in the RNZ Navy during the same period but were not involved in the tests. The original follow-up was carried out for the period 1957-87 with an observed increase in risk of leukemia and other hematologic cancers, but little or no increase of non-hematologic cancers or non-cancer deaths in test participants. Follow-up now has been extended for the period 1988-92. For the total follow-up period, there were 97 deaths in test participants and 256 deaths in controls, a relative risk (RR) of 1.1 (90 percent confidence interval [CI] = 0.9-1.3). The RR of death from causes other than cancer was 1.0 (CI = 0.8-1.3), whereas the RR of cancer death was 1.2 (CI = 0.8-1.7) and that of cancer incidence was 1.0 (CI = 0.8-1.4). For cancers other than hematologic malignancies, the RR was 1.0 (CI = 0.7-1.5) for mortality, and 1.0 (CI = 0.7-1.3) for incidence. However, there were eight deaths from hematologic cancers in test participants (RR = 3.8, CI = 1.4-10.8), including four leukemias (RR = 5.6, CI = 1.0-41.7). The RR for incidence of hematologic cancers was 1.9 (CI = 0.8-4.3), and that for leukemia was 5.6 (CI = 1.0-41.6). We concluded that the evidence is still consistent with the hypothesis that some leukemias and other hematologic cancers may have resulted from participation in the nuclear weapons test program, but the further follow-up strengthens the evidence that there is no increased risk for non-hematologic cancers or for causes of death other than cancer in the test participants.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Confidence Intervals
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Hematologic Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Hematologic Neoplasms / etiology
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Military Personnel*
  • New Zealand / ethnology
  • Nuclear Warfare*
  • Pacific Islands / epidemiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Survival Rate
  • United Kingdom