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Infant leukaemia after in utero exposure to radiation from Chernobyl


THERE has been no documented increase in childhood leukaemia following the Chernobyl accident. However, different forms of childhood leukaemia may not be equally susceptible to radiation carcinogenesis. Infant leukaemia is a distinct form associated with a specific genetic abnormality. Outside the former Soviet Union, contamination resulting from the Chernobyl accident has been highest in Greece and Austria and high also in the Scandinavian countries1–4. All childhood leukaemia cases diagnosed throughout Greece since 1 January 1980 have been recorded. Here we report that infants exposed in utero to ionizing radiation from the Chernobyl accident had 2.6 times the incidence of leukaemia compared to unexposed children (95% confidence interval, 1.4 to 5.1; P ≈ 0.003), and those born to mothers residing in regions with high radioactive fallout were at higher risk of developing infant leukaemia. No significant difference in leukaemia incidence was found among children aged 12 to 47 months. Preconceptional irradiation had no demonstrable effect on leukaemia risk at any of the studied age groups.

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Petridou, E., Trichopoulos, D., Dessypris, N. et al. Infant leukaemia after in utero exposure to radiation from Chernobyl. Nature 382, 352–353 (1996).

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