(Cancer in children of nuclear industry employees: report on children aged under 25 years from nuclear industry family study)
The incidence of cancer and leukaemia among children of nuclear industry employees is similar to that of the general population in England and Wales, find researchers in a study published in this week's BMJ. Dr Eve Roman from the Leukaemia Research Fund based at the University of Leeds, along with colleagues from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the Imperial Cancer Research Fund studied 46,107 children of male and female employees at nuclear establishments operated by the Atomic Energy Authority, Atomic Weapons Establishment and British Nuclear Fuels.
The researchers set up the nuclear industry family study to investigate possible links between child health and parents' occupational exposure to ionising radiation. They found that a total of 111 of the 46,107 children were reported to have developed a malignancy before their 25th birthday. Among children born in 1965 or later (two thirds of all children in the study) it was possible to make comparisons with cancer rates in the general population of England and Wales. No unusual cancer patterns were evident.
Roman et al also found that the leukaemia rate in children whose fathers had accumulated a relatively high dose of ionising radiation (more than 100 millisieverts) before their child's conception was higher than in children conceived before their father's employment in the nuclear industry. However, because this finding was based on only three cases - two of which had been reported on before - the authors caution that firm conclusions cannot be drawn. Further, the authors say that in the industries studied, high preconceptual doses were found to be rare and, even if there were an association, it could only account for three at the most of the 22 leukaemias diagnosed in almost 40,000 children born to male workers.
Dr Eve Roman, Reader, Leukaemia Research Fund, Institute of Epidemiology, University of Leeds, Leeds E.Roman@Leeds.ac.uk