We describe the radiation risk for primary liver cancers between 1958 and 1987 in a cohort of atomic bomb survivors in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. The analysis is based on a comprehensive pathology review of known or suspected liver neoplasms that generated 518 incident, first primary cases, mostly hepatocellular carcinoma. Excess relative risk from atomic bomb radiation was linear: 0.81 per sievert weighted liver dose (95% CI [0.32, 1.43]; P < 0.001). Males and females had similar relative risk so that, given a threefold higher background incidence in males, the radiation-related excess incidence was substantially higher in males. Excess risk peaked for those with age at exposure in the early 20s; there was essentially no excess risk in those exposed before age 10 or after age 45. Whether this was due to a difference in sensitivity or possible confounding by other factors could not be addressed retrospectively in the full cohort. A paucity of cholangiocarcinoma and hemangiosarcoma cases suggested that they are not significantly associated with whole-body radiation exposure, as they are with the internal α-particle-emitting radiological contrast medium Thorotrast. Because most of the radiation-related excess cases occurred among males, it is important to ascertain what factors put men at greater risk of radiation-related liver cancer.

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