May 30, 2006
No link between leukemia risk, nuclear plants
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Children living near nuclear
plants in France do not have an increased risk of leukemia, a
new study confirms.
Most studies that have examined cancer risk near nuclear
installations have looked only at how far a child lives from
the plant, Dr. Jacqueline Clavel of Universite Paris Sud,
Villejuif and colleagues note, assuming that the greater the
distance, the lower the radiation exposure. However, radiation
dispersion follows a more complex pattern, they note.
To get a more accurate picture of the risk, Clavel and her
team divided regions around each of 23 different French nuclear
plants into five zones based on radiation exposure to the red
bone marrow (RBM) due to gaseous discharge from the plant. They
evaluated the rate of leukemia diagnoses among children younger
than 15 years old between 1990 and 2001 over 40 square
kilometers around each plant.
A total of 750 cases of leukemia were diagnosed, slightly
lower than the 795 cases that would have been expected,
although the difference was not statistically significant. The
researchers also found no evidence of an increased risk that
correlated with increased radiation exposure.
The average radiation exposure from gaseous discharge was
very low, a small fraction of the estimated exposure from
natural sources of ionizing radiation, such as radon, or from
medical tests, such as X-ray imaging.
The average RBM dose from gaseous radioactive discharge
among children who lived in the vicinity of nuclear plants was
about 1,000 to 10,000 times lower than the average RBM dose
from natural sources, Clavel and her colleagues report.
They conclude that there was no evidence of an increase in
the rate of childhood leukemia in the vicinity of these 23
French nuclear plants between 1990 and 2001.
SOURCE: British Journal of Cancer, May 8, 2004.