Little is known about long-term cancer risks following in utero radiation exposure. We evaluated the association between in utero radiation exposure and risk of solid cancer and leukemia mortality among 8,000 offspring, born from 1948–1988, of female workers at the Mayak Nuclear Facility in Ozyorsk, Russia. Mother's cumulative gamma radiation uterine dose during pregnancy served as a surrogate for fetal dose. We used Poisson regression methods to estimate relative risks (RRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) of solid cancer and leukemia mortality associated with in utero radiation exposure and to quantify excess relative risks (ERRs) as a function of dose. Using currently available dosimetry information, 3,226 (40%) offspring were exposed in utero (mean dose = 54.5 mGy). Based on 75 deaths from solid cancers (28 exposed) and 12 (6 exposed) deaths from leukemia, in utero exposure status was not significantly associated with solid cancer: RR = 0.94, 95% CI 0.58 to 1.49; ERR/Gy = −0.1 (95% CI < −0.1 to 4.1), or leukemia mortality; RR = 1.65, 95% CI 0.52 to 5.27; ERR/Gy = −0.8 (95% CI < −0.8 to 46.9). These initial results provide no evidence that low-dose gamma in utero radiation exposure increases solid cancer or leukemia mortality risk, but the data are not inconsistent with such an increase. As the offspring cohort is relatively young, subsequent analyses based on larger case numbers are expected to provide more precise estimates of adult cancer mortality risk following in utero exposure to ionizing radiation.
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Vol. 178 • No. 3