Continuous, 24-year observations on a group of 358 rhesus monkeys reveal that life shortening from exposure to protons in the energy range encountered in the Van Allen belts and solar proton events is influenced primarily by the dose rather than by the energy of radiation. Life shortening in groups exposed to similar surface doses of 138- to 2300-MeV and 32- to 55-MeV protons are not significantly different, but the low-energy protons are associated with more deaths in the early years, while the high-energy protons contribute more to mortality in later years. In males, the most significant cause of life shortening is nonleukemia cancers. In females, radiation increased the risk of endometriosis (an abnormal proliferation of the lining of the uterus) which resulted in significant mortality in the years before early detection and treatment methods were employed. Animals exposed to 55-MeV protons had a high incidence of malignant brain tumors with latent periods ranging from 13 months to 20 years. The first fatal cancer among nonirradiated controls occurred 18 years after the study began. Analysis of the dose-response data supports the 1989 guidelines of the NCRP for maximum permissible radiation exposures in astronauts (NCRP, Guidance on Radiation Received in Space Activities, Report No. 98, National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements, Bethesda, MD, 1989).

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