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Long-Term Health Effects of Hiroshima and Nagasaki Atomic Bombs Not as Dire as Perceived

(Genetics Society of America) The detonation of atomic bombs over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 resulted in horrific casualties and devastation. The long-term effects of radiation exposure also increased cancer rates in the survivors. But public perception of the rates of cancer and birth defects among survivors and their children is in fact greatly exaggerated when compared to the reality revealed by comprehensive follow-up studies. The reasons for this mismatch and its implications are discussed in a Perspectives review of the Hiroshima/Nagasaki survivor studies…
Cancer rates among survivors was higher compared to rates in those who had been out of town at the time. The relative risk increased according to how close the person was to the detonation site, their age (younger people faced a greater lifetime risk), and their sex (greater risk for women than men). However, most survivors did not develop cancer.
Incidence of solid cancers between 1958 and 1998 among the survivors were 10% higher, which corresponds to approximately 848 additional cases among 44,635 survivors in this part of the study. However, most of the survivors received a relatively modest dose of radiation. In contrast, those exposed to a higher radiation dose of 1 Gray (approximately 1000 times higher than current safety limits for the general public) bore a 44% greater risk of cancer over the same time span (1958-1998). Taking into consideration all causes of death, this relatively high dose reduced average lifespan by approximately 1.3 years.
[N]o differences in health or mutations rates have yet been detected among children of survivors.
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