Studies have causally linked external thyroid radiation exposure in childhood with thyroid cancer. In 1995, investigators conducted relative risk analyses of pooled data from seven epidemiologic studies. Doses were mostly <10 Gy, although childhood cancer therapies can result in thyroid doses >50 Gy. We pooled data from 12 studies of thyroid cancer patients who were exposed to radiation in childhood (ages <20 years), more than doubling the data, including 1,070 (927 exposed) thyroid cancers and 5.3 million (3.4 million exposed) person-years. Relative risks increased supralinearly through 2–4 Gy, leveled off between 10–30 Gy and declined thereafter, remaining significantly elevated above 50 Gy. There was a significant relative risk trend for doses <0.10 Gy (P < 0.01), with no departure from linearity (P = 0.36). We observed radiogenic effects for both papillary and nonpapillary tumors. Estimates of excess relative risk per Gy (ERR/Gy) were homogeneous by sex (P = 0.35) and number of radiation treatments (P = 0.84) and increased with decreasing age at the time of exposure. The ERR/Gy estimate was significant within ten years of radiation exposure, 2.76 (95% CI, 0.94–4.98), based on 42 exposed cases, and remained elevated 50 years and more after exposure. Finally, exposure to chemotherapy was significantly associated with thyroid cancer, with results supporting a nonsynergistic (additive) association with radiation.
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Vol. 185 • No. 5