An incidence survey among atomic bomb survivors identified 807 breast cancer cases, and 20 second breast cancers. As in earlier surveys of the Life Span Study population, a strongly linear radiation dose response was found, with the highest dose-specific excess relative risk (ERR) among survivors under 20 years old at the time of the bombings. Sixty-eight of the cases were under 10 years old at exposure, strengthening earlier reports of a marked excess risk associated with exposure during infancy and childhood. A much lower, but marginally significant, dose response was seen among women exposed at 40 years and older. It was not possible, however, to discriminate statistically between age at exposure and age at observation for risk as the more important determinant of ERR per unit dose. A 13-fold ERR at 1 Sv was found for breast cancer occurring before age 35, compared to a 2-fold excess after age 35, among survivors exposed before age 20. This a posteriori finding, based on 27 exposed, known-dose, early-onset cases, suggests the possible existence of a susceptible genetic subgroup. Further studies, involving family histories of cancer and investigations at the molecular level, are suggested to determine whether such a subgroup exists.

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