Description: Information on late biological effects of radiation was obtained from the long-term medical followup of a small population of Marshallese accidentally exposed to radioactive fallout from a thermonuclear test in 1954. Endocrine data are compatible with a sequence of nonstochastic radiation effects. The ingestion of radioisotopes of iodine produced clinical thyroid hypofunction in children, biochemical evidence of thyroid dysfunction in some adults, thyroid adenomatous module formation, and, as a possible indirect effect of thyroid damage, at least two cases of pituitary adenoma. In contrast, the only evidence of a stochastic effect has been a real increase in thyroid cancers among the more highly exposed people of Rongelap, none of whom have evidence of residual disease. While three nonthyroidal cancers which are known to be inducible in humans by external irradiation have been documented in the exposed population, three similar cancers have occurred in an unexposed comparison population of Marshallese. Nonstochastic effects of radiation exposure may be common but subtle. In the Marshallese experience the morbidity of delayed nonstochastic effects far exceeds that of the stochastic. 20 refs., 5 figs., 1 tab.
Date: January 1, 1985
Creator: Adams, W.H.
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