The relationship between exposure to sparsely ionizing radiation and mortality due to cancers of hematopoietic and lymphopoietic tissues was studied among 12,955 women treated for benign gynecological disorders at any of 17 hospitals in New England or New York State and followed for an average of 25 years; 9770 women were treated by radiation (intracavitary226 Ra, external-beam X rays), while 3185 were treated by other methods, including curettage, surgery, and hormones. The average age at treatment was 46.5 years, and the mean dose to active bone marrow among irradiated women was 119 cGy. Forty deaths due to acute, myelocytic, or monocytic leukemia were observed among irradiated women. This number was 70% higher than expected based on U.S. mortality rates [standardized mortality ratio (SMR) = 1.7; 90% confidence interval (CI) 1.3-2.3]. A deficit was recorded among nonirradiated women, based on three observed deaths (SMR = 0.5; 90% CI 0.1-1.2). A well-defined gradient in the SMR with dose among exposed women was not detected. The SMR was highest within 5 years after irradiation but remained elevated even after 30 years. The temporal pattern differed by subtype of leukemia: excess mortality due to chronic myelocytic leukemia occurred almost exclusively within the first 15 years, whereas the SMR for acute leukemia, though also elevated, varied little over time. Cancers of lymphoreticular tissue occurred more often than expected based on U.S. mortality rates, but not appreciably differently for irradiated and nonirradiated women. There was little or no evidence of effects attributable to radiotherapy for chronic lymphocytic leukemia [relative risk (RR) = 1.1; 90% CI 0.5-3.0], Hodgkin's disease (RR = 0.9; 90% CI 0.3-3.2), non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (RR = 0.9; 90% CI 0.6-1.6), or multiple myeloma (RR = 0.6; 90% CI 0.3-1.4). These results corroborate previous findings indicating that acute and myelocytic leukemias are the most prominent malignancies after exposure to sparsely ionizing radiation, occurring in excess shortly after irradiation, and that lymphomas are either not caused by radiation or are induced only rarely.

This content is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.