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Am J Ind Med. 2000 Oct;38(4):441-6.

A mortality follow-up study of WW II submariners who received nasopharyngeal radium irradiation treatment.

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  • 1Environmental Epidemiology Service, Veterans Health Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs, Washington, DC 20036, USA.



During World War II, large numbers of submarine trainees received nasopharyngeal radium irradiation therapy to treat aerotitis media or middle ear barotrauma.


Using a life table and the Cox proportional hazards model, mortality risk of 1, 214 submariners believed to have received treatment for aerotitis media was compared to 3,176 "untreated" submariners.


"Treated" submariners had a significant increased mortality risk for all causes (odds ratio (OR) = 1.32; 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1. 14-1.53) and circulatory diseases (OR = 1.51; 95% CI = 1.20-1.90), and a non-significant increased mortality risk of head and neck cancer (OR = 1.40; 95% CI = 0.54-3.58).


While the excess risk was not statistically significant by conventional standards, the finding does suggest that those who received NP radium irradiation therapy may be at increased risk of death due to head and neck cancers. Due to the lack of data the role of risk factors other than radium exposure cannot be assessed.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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