OBJECTIVE--To evaluate the outcome of pregnancy in Finnish women after the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant on 26 April 1986. DESIGN--Geographic and temporal cohort study. SETTING--Finland divided into three zones according to amount of radioactive fallout. SUBJECTS--All children who were exposed to radiation during their fetal development. Children born before any effects of the accident could be postulated--that is, between 1 January 1984 and 30 June 1986--served as controls. INTERVENTIONS--Children were divided into three temporal groups: controls, children who were expected to be born in August to December 1986, and children who were expected to be born in February to December 1987. They were also divided, separately, into three groups according to the three geographic zones. END POINT--Incidence of congenital malformations, preterm births, and perinatal deaths. MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS--There were no significant differences in the incidence of malformations or perinatal deaths among the three temporal and three geographic groups. A significant increase in preterm births occurred among children who were exposed to radiation during the first trimester whose mothers lived in zones 2 and 3, where the external dose rate and estimated surface activity of caesium-137 were highest. CONCLUSIONS--The results suggest that the amount of radioactive fallout that Finnish people were exposed to after the accident at Chernobyl was not high enough to cause fetal damage in children born at term. The higher incidence of premature births among malformed children in the most heavily polluted areas, however, remains unexplained.
Comment In: BMJ. 1989 May 20;298(6684):13842502266
Long-lived, sensitive, and specific biomarkers of particular mutagenic agents are much sought after and potentially have broad applications in the fields of cancer biology, epidemiology, and prevention. Many clastogens induce a spectrum of chromosome aberrations, and some of them can be exploited as biomarkers of exposure. Densely ionizing radiation, for example, alpha particle radiation (from radon or plutonium) and neutron radiation, preferentially induces complex chromosome aberrations, which can be detected by the 24-color multifluor fluorescence in situ hybridization (mFISH) technique. We report the detection and quantification of stable complex chromosome aberrations in lymphocytes of healthy former nuclear-weapons workers, who were exposed many years ago to plutonium, gamma rays, or both, at the Mayak weapons complex in Russia. We analyzed peripheral-blood lymphocytes from these individuals for the presence of persistent complex chromosome aberrations. A significantly elevated frequency of complex chromosome translocations was detected in the highly exposed plutonium workers but not in the group exposed only to high doses of gamma radiation. No such differences were found for simple chromosomal aberrations. The results suggest that stable complex chromosomal translocations represent a long-lived, quantitative, low-background biomarker of densely ionizing radiation for human populations exposed many years ago.
To assess effects of fallout from Chernobyl on incidence of childhood leukaemia in Finland.
Nationwide cohort study. External exposure measured for 455 Finnish municipalities with instruments driven 19,000 km throughout the country. Values specific to municipalities corrected for shielding due to houses and fallout from A bomb testing. Internal exposure estimated from whole body measurements on a random sample of 81 children. Mean effective dose for two years after incident calculated from these measurements. Data on childhood leukaemia obtained from Finnish cancer registry and verified through hospitals treating childhood cancers.
Finland, one of the countries most heavily contaminated by the Chernobyl accident; the population was divided into fifths by exposure.
Children aged 0-14 years in 1976-92.
Standardised incidence ratio of childhood leukaemia and relative excess risk of childhood leukaemia per mSv. From incidence data of Finnish cancer registry for 1976-85, expected numbers specific to sex and age group (0-4, 5-9, and 10-14 years) were calculated for each municipality for three periods (1976-85, 1986-8, and 1989-92) and pooled as exposure fifths. Dose response was estimated as regression slope of standardised incidence ratios on mean doses for fifths for each period.
Population weighted mean effective doses for first two years after the accident were 410 microSv for the whole country and 970 microSv for the population fifth with the highest dose. In all Finland the incidence of childhood leukaemia did not increase 1976-92. The relative excess risk 1989-92 was not significantly different from zero (7% per mSv; 95% confidence interval -27% to 41%).
An important increase in childhood leukaemia can be excluded. Any effect is smaller than eight extra cases per million children per year in Finland. The results are consistent with the magnitude of effect expected.
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Comment In: BMJ. 1994 Nov 12;309(6964):1300-17888862
Comment In: BMJ. 1994 Nov 12;309(6964):1299; author reply 13007888860
Comment In: BMJ. 1994 Nov 12;309(6964):12997888859
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.
A multicolor banding (mBAND) fluorescence in situ hybridization technique was used to investigate the presence inhuman populations of a stable biomarker-intrachromosomal chromosome aberrations-of past exposure to high-LET radiation. Peripheral blood lymphocytes were taken from healthy Russian nuclear workers occupationally exposed from 1949 onward to either plutonium, gamma rays or both. Metaphase spreads were produced and chromosomes 1 and 2 were hybridized with mBAND FISH probes and scored for intra-chromosomal aberrations. A large yield of intrachromosomal aberrations was observed in both chromosomes of the individuals exposed to high doses of plutonium, whereas there was no significant increase over the (low) background control rate in the population who were exposed to high doses of gamma rays. Interchromosome aberration yields were similar in both the high plutonium and the high gamma-ray groups. These results for chromosome 1 and 2 confirm and extend data published previously for chromosome 5. Intrachromosomal aberrations thus represent a potential biomarker for past exposure to high-LET radiations such as alpha particles and neutrons and could possibly be used as a biodosimeter to estimate both the dose and type of radiation exposure in previously exposed populations.
We have shown elsewhere that highly non-uniform exposure to ionizing radiation from authentic Chernobyl-released and artificially-produced hot particles (fragments of nuclear fuel) transform fibroblastic 10T1/2 cells in vitro effectively. We have also shown that hot-particle exposure leads to mutation and overexpression of the tumour suppressor gene p53 (and some other growth-related genes) in mouse skin in vivo at a high frequency. In the present paper it is shown that hot-particles produced by irradiating natural uranium with slow neutrons, when implanted (immobilized) under the skin of hairless and nude mice, induce epidermal tumours in excess compared with the conventional non-threshold stochastic model of radiation-induced cancer. One explanation for the effectiveness of the hot-particle exposure, under the present assay conditions, is that the same cells in which specific radiation-induced DNA damage is most likely to occur, are forced into sustained mitotic activity in the chronic wound which develops around the radiation source (combined genotoxic and nongenotoxic effects). The results are consistent with a role for cell proliferation in multistage carcinogenesis in mouse skin.