Thirty-five year mortality following receipt of SV40-contaminated polio vaccine during the neonatal period


Early poliovirus vaccines, both inactivated and live attenuated, were inadvertently contaminated with simian virus 40 (SV40), a monkey virus known to be oncogenic for newborn hamsters. Although large epidemiologic studies have not identified an elevated cancer risk in persons who received SV40-contaminated vaccines, fragments of SV40 DNA have recently been identified in certain human tumours. We report the follow-up of a cohort of 1073 persons, unique because they received SV40-contaminated poliovirus vaccines as newborns in 1961–63. A previous report of the status of these subjects as of 1977–79 identified 15 deaths, none due to cancer. The present study utilized the National Death Index to identify deaths in the cohort for the years 1979–96. Expected deaths were calculated from Cleveland area sex-, age-, race- and year-specific mortality rates. Increased mortality from all causes was not found. 4 deaths from cancer were found compared to 3.16 expected (P= 0.77). However, 2 deaths from testicular cancer occurred, compared to 0.05 expected (P= 0.002), which may be a chance finding due to multiple comparisons. There were 2 deaths due to leukaemia, a non-significant finding, and no deaths due to tumours of the types putatively associated with SV40. Although these results are, for the most part, consistent with other negative epidemiologic investigations of risks from SV40-contaminated vaccines, further study of testicular cancer may be warranted, and it will be important to continue monitoring this cohort which is now reaching middle-age. © 2001 Cancer Research Campaign

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Carroll-Pankhurst, C., Engels, E., Strickler, H. et al. Thirty-five year mortality following receipt of SV40-contaminated polio vaccine during the neonatal period. Br J Cancer 85, 1295–1297 (2001).

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  • SV40
  • poliovirus vaccines
  • cancer
  • newborns

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