Society News Archive

22 October 1999

A new report from the Institute of Medicine examines the causes and rates of death among nearly 70,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines who participated in atmospheric nuclear tests during the 1950s.

The study used records compiled or maintained by the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the National Archives to identify this group of test participants and a comparable group of about 65,000 service personnel who did not participant in nuclear tests.

No difference was found in overall death rates and total deaths from cancer in the participants and the nonparticipants groups.

Participants had an apparent 14 percent higher risk of death from leukemia than the comparison group, although that difference was not statistically significant.

There were also some unanticipated results regarding prostate and nasal cancers. Death rates from prostate cancer were 20 percent higher among test participants than the comparison group, and even higher for nasal cancer.

To view a statement by the Institute and the full report go the National Academies website at: and look under news.