We studied the alpha-radiation risks in patients who received injections of Thorotrast, an X-ray contrast medium used in Europe, Japan, and the United States from 1930 to 1955. Thorotrast was composed of thorium dioxide (ThO2) and Th-232, a naturally occurring radionuclide. Because the physical half-life of ThO2 is 14 billion years and Thorotrast is hardly eliminated from the body, tissues in which it was deposited are irradiated by alpha-radiation for the entire lifetime of the subject. The dosimetry of Thorotrast patients is very complicated, but currently its reliability is quite high compared with other irradiated populations. The major causes of the death of Thorotrast patients are liver cancer, liver cirrhosis, leukemia, and other cancers. Three histologies of liver cancer are found: cholangiocarcinoma, hepatocellular carcinoma, and angiosarcoma. Although cholangiocarcinoma is the most frequent, angiosarcoma is characteristic of alpha-radiation. Among blood neoplasms with a higher incidence of increase than the general population, erythroleukemia and myelodysplastic syndrome were remarkable. Thorotrast patients exhaled a high concentration of radon (Rn-220), a progeny of Th-232, but no excesses of lung cancer in the patients of Japan, Germany, and Denmark were reported. Mutation analyses of p53 genes and loss of heterozygosity (LOH) studies at 17p locus were performed to characterize the genetic changes in Thorotrast-induced liver tumors. Interestingly, LOH, supposedly corresponding to large deletions was not frequent; most mutations were transitions, also seen in tumors of the general population, suggesting that genetic changes of Thorotrast-induced cancers are mainly delayed mutations, and not the result of the direct effects of radiation.
Incidence and mortality from cerebrovascular diseases (CVD) (430-438 ICD-9 codes) have been studied in a cohort of 18,763 workers first employed at the Mayak Production Association (Mayak PA) in 1948-1972 and followed up to the end of 2005. Some of the workers were exposed to external gamma-rays only while others were exposed to a mixture of external gamma-rays and internal alpha-particle radiation due to incorporated (239)Pu. After adjusting for non-radiation factors, there were significantly increasing trends in CVD incidence with total absorbed dose from external gamma-rays and total absorbed dose to liver from internal alpha radiation. The CVD incidence was statistically significantly higher among workers with total absorbed external gamma-ray doses greater than 0.20 Gy compared to those exposed to lower doses; the data were consistent with a linear trend in risk with external dose. The CVD incidence was statistically significantly higher among workers with total absorbed internal alpha-radiation doses to liver from incorporated (239)Pu greater than 0.025 Gy compared to those exposed to lower doses. There was no statistically significant trend in CVD mortality risk with either external gamma-ray dose or internal alpha-radiation dose to liver. The risk estimates obtained are generally compatible with those from other large occupational studies, although the incidence data point to higher risk estimates compared to those from the Japanese A-bomb survivors. Further studies of the unique cohort of Mayak workers chronically exposed to external and internal radiation will allow improving the reliability and validating the radiation safety standards for occupational and public exposure.
This paper describes findings from the study of chronic bronchitis (CB) incidence after occupational exposure to ionising radiation among workers employed at Russian Mayak Production Association (PA) during 1948 and 1982 and followed up until 2008 based on 'Mayak Worker Dosimetry System 2008'.
Analyses were based on 2135 verified cases among 21 417 workers. Rate ratios (RR) were estimated by categorical analysis for non-radiation and radiation factors. Excess rate ratios per Gy (ERR/Gy) of external or internal exposures with adjustments via stratification on other factors were calculated.
The interesting finding in relation to non-radiation factors was a sharp increase in the RR for CB incidence before 1960, which could be caused by a number of factors. Analyses restricted to the follow-up after 1960 revealed statistically significant associations of the CB incidence and external ?-ray radiation, ERR/Gy=0.14 (95% CI 0.02 to 0.28) having adjusted for sex, attained age, calendar period, plant, smoking status and lung a-particle dose, and internal a-particle radiation, ERR/Gy=1.14 (95% CI 0.41 to 2.18) having adjusted for sex, attained age, calendar period, plant, smoking status and lung ?-ray dose and ERR/Gy=1.19 (95% CI 0.32 to 2.53) having additionally adjusted for pre-employment occupational hazards and smoking index instead of smoking status.
Analyses of CB incidence in the study cohort identified positive significant association with occupational exposure to radiation: however, there are no similar studies of CB incidence in relation to radiation in other cohorts to date with which a meaningful comparison of the results could be made.
Incidence of chronic bronchitis has been studied in a cohort of 12,210 workers first employed at one of the main plants of the Mayak nuclear facility during 1948-1958 and followed up to 31 December 2005. Information on external gamma doses is available for virtually all of these workers; in contrast, plutonium body burden was measured only for 30% of workers. During the follow-up period in the study cohort 1,175 incident cases of chronic bronchitis were verified. The analyses of nonradiation factors revealed that the underlying risk of chronic bronchitis incidence increased with increasing attained age and was higher among smokers compared with never-smokers as would be expected. The most interesting finding in relationship to nonradiation factors was a sharp increase in the baseline chronic bronchitis risk before 1960. The cause of this is not clear but a number of factors may play a role. Based on the follow-up data after 1960, the analysis showed a statistically significant linear dose response relationship with cumulative external gamma-ray dose (ERR/Gy = 0.14, 95% CI 0.01, 0.32). Based on the same subset but with an additional restriction to members with cumulative internal lung dose below 1 Gy, a statistically significant linear dose response relationship with internal alpha-radiation lung dose from incorporated plutonium was found (ERR/Gy = 2.70, 95% CI 1.20, 4.87). In both cases, adjustment was made for nonradiation factors, including smoking and either internal or external dose as appropriate. At present there are no similar incidence studies with which to compare results. However, the most recent data from the atomic bomb survivor cohort (the Life Span Study) showed statistically significant excess mortality risk for respiratory diseases of 22% per Gy and this value is within the confidence bounds of the point estimate of the risk from this study in relation to external dose.
BACKGROUND: Findings from a British case-control study suggest that a preconceptional paternal external radiation dose of more than 100 mSv (10 rem) is significantly related to risk for leukemia and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in offspring. The suggestion, however, has not been supported by experimental or other epidemiologic studies. PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to investigate if preconceptional irradiation of males and females from internally deposited radionuclides affects mortality and risk of developing cancer in their offspring. METHODS: The offspring of 260 females (n = 143) and 320 males (n = 226) who lived longer than 1 year after receiving Thorotrast (a compound no longer in use) for cerebral arteriography were studied for mortality rate and the risk for developing cancer. Thorotrast was used as a contrast medium containing a 20% colloidal solution of thorium dioxide-Th 232, an alpha particle-emitting radionuclide, which is retained lifelong in nearly all organs. The offspring of the exposed patients were identified by manual linkage with the municipal population registers and followed-up for vital status by computerized linkage with the Danish National Central Population Registry and for incidence of cancer by computerized linkage with the Danish National Cancer Registry. The standardized mortality/morbidity ratios (SMRs) for death and for site-specific incidence of cancer in the offspring were calculated as ratios of the observed rates in the study population to the expected rates in the general population. RESULTS: After a median follow-up of 40 years, four cases of cancer (breast [one], uterine cervix [one], melanoma of skin [one], and retinoblastoma [one]) versus 2.9 cases expected, developed among 143 children born to mothers who received injections of Thorotrast (SMR = 1.4; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.4-3.5), while six cases of cancer (one case each of cancer of lung, testis, thyroid, and Hodgkin's lymphoma and two cases of melanoma of skin), versus 4.5 expected, occurred among 226 children of exposed fathers (SMR = 1.3; 95% CI = 0.5-2.9). No case of leukemia or non-Hodgkin's lymphoma occurred in any of the offspring studied. Mortality was lower than expected both for children of exposed mothers (SMR = 0.7; 95% CI = 0.3-1.5) and of exposed fathers (SMR = 0.5; 95% CI = 0.2-1.0). CONCLUSIONS: This study does not support the previously proposed association between parental exposure to radiation and the risk of childhood leukemia and lymphoma. Furthermore, since mortality from all causes was not increased in any offspring, our results do not support the belief that preconceptional parental low-dose exposure to alpha radiation increases the incidence of cancer or mortality in the offspring.
Comment In: J Natl Cancer Inst. 1995 Apr 19;87(8):606-77619147
The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of smoking and lung health on the pulmonary and extrapulmonary retention after inhalation of different chemical forms of plutonium with different solubilities in workers from the Mayak Production Association (Ozersk, Russia). Samples of lung, pulmonary lymph nodes, liver and skeleton were obtained from 800 workers who died between 1962-2000. The chemical form of plutonium aerosols, smoking history and presence of lung disease were determined. In workers with normal lung status, all plutonium chemical classes were about equally distributed between the lung parenchyma and pulmonary lymph nodes. The more insoluble chemical forms of plutonium had a greater retention in pulmonary than systemic tissues regardless of smoking history or lung health status. A history of smoking did, however, result in a significantly greater retention of less soluble chemical forms of plutonium in pulmonary tissues of workers with no lung disease. In workers with lung disease, smoking did not significantly influence the terminal organ retention of the different chemical forms of plutonium. These initial data can be used to modify dosimetry and biokinetics models used for estimating radiation risks from plutonium in humans.
An analysis of lung cancer mortality in a cohort of 1,669 Mayak workers who started their employment in the plutonium and reprocessing plants between 1948 and 1958 has been carried out in terms of a relative risk model. Particular emphasis has been given to a discrimination of the effects of external gamma-ray exposure and internal alpha-particle exposure due to incorporated plutonium. This study has also used the information from a cohort of 2,172 Mayak reactor workers who were exposed only to external gamma rays. The baseline lung cancer mortality rate has not been taken from national statistics but has been derived from the cohort itself. For both alpha particles and gamma rays, the results of the analysis are consistent with linear dose dependences. The estimated excess relative risk per unit organ dose equivalent in the lung due to the plutonium alpha particles at age 60 equals, according to the present study, 0.6/Sv, with a radiation weighting factor of 20 for alpha particles. The 95% confidence range is 0.39/Sv to 1.0/Sv. For the gamma-ray component, the present analysis suggests an excess relative risk for lung cancer mortality at age 60 of 0.20/Sv, with, however, a large 95% confidence range of-0.04/Sv to 0.69/Sv.
In this study, lung cancer risk from occupational plutonium exposure was analyzed in a pooled cohort of Mayak and Sellafield workers, two of the most informative cohorts in the world with detailed plutonium urine monitoring programs. The pooled cohort comprised 45,817 workers: 23,443 Sellafield workers first employed during 1947-2002 with follow-up until the end of 2005 and 22,374 Mayak workers first employed during 1948-1982 with follow-up until the end of 2008. In the pooled cohort 1,195 lung cancer deaths were observed (789 Mayak, 406 Sellafield) but only 893 lung cancer incidences (509 Mayak, 384 Sellafield, due to truncated follow-up in the incidence analysis). Analyses were performed using Poisson regression models, and were based on doses derived from individual radiation monitoring data using an updated dose assessment methodology developed in the study. There was clear evidence of a linear association between cumulative internal plutonium lung dose and risk of both lung cancer mortality and incidence in the pooled cohort. The pooled point estimates of the excess relative risk (ERR) from plutonium exposure for both lung cancer mortality and incidence were within the range of 5-8 per Gy for males at age 60. The ERR estimates in relationship to external gamma radiation were also significantly raised and in the range 0.2-0.4 per Gy of cumulative gamma dose to the lung. The point estimates of risk, for both external and plutonium exposure, were comparable between the cohorts, which suggests that the pooling of these data was valid. The results support point estimates of relative biological effectiveness (RBE) in the range of 10-25, which is in broad agreement with the value of 20 currently adopted in radiological protection as the radiation weighting factor for alpha particles, however, the uncertainty on this value (RBE = 21; 95% CI: 9-178) is large. The results provide direct evidence that the plutonium risks in each cohort are of the same order of magnitude but the uncertainty on the Sellafield cohort plutonium risk estimates is large, with observed risks consistent with no plutonium risk, and risks five times larger than those observed in the Mayak cohort.
Results of the risk analysis of mortality from ischemic heart disease (IHD) in the cohort of Mayak nuclear workers (18763 individuals) first employed in 1948-1972, with follow-up to 31.12.2005, were summarized. The mortality risk of IHD in the cohort of Mayak workers depended on the non-radiation factors such as gender, age, calendar period, smoking, alcohol consumption, arterial hypertension, body mass index. There was no statistically significant relationship between mortality from 1HD and total external dose. The risk of mortality from IHD was significantly higher for workers exposed to the total absorbed dose to liver > 0.025 Gy from internal alpha-radiation. There was a significantly increasing trend (ERR/Gy) of the IHD mortality with the total absorbed dose to liver from internal alpha-radiation due to incorporated plutonium. However, there was a decreasing trend of ERR/Gy with restriction of the follow-up to Ozyorsk and adjustment for the external dose.
Speculation has long surrounded the question of whether past exposure to ionizing radiation leaves a unique permanent signature in the genome. Intrachromosomal rearrangements or deletions are produced much more efficiently by densely ionizing radiation than by chemical mutagens, x-rays, or endogenous aging processes. Until recently, such stable intrachromosomal aberrations have been very hard to detect, but a new chromosome band painting technique has made their detection practical. We report the detection and quantification of stable intrachromosomal aberrations in lymphocytes of healthy former nuclear-weapons workers who were exposed to plutonium many years ago. Even many years after occupational exposure, more than half the blood cells of the healthy plutonium workers contain large (>6 Mb) intrachromosomal rearrangements. The yield of these aberrations was highly correlated with plutonium dose to the bone marrow. The control groups contained very few such intrachromosomal aberrations. Quantification of this large-scale chromosomal damage in human populations exposed many years earlier will lead to new insights into the mechanisms and risks of cytogenetic damage.