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Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 1996 Nov;115(5):433-7.

Feasibility of an epidemiologic study of submariners who received radium irradiation treatment.

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  • 1Department of Veterans Affairs, Environmental Epidemiology Service, Washington, D.C., USA.


Thousands of World War II veterans reportedly received nasopharyngeal irradiation with radium-tipped applicators for treatment of middle ear pressure problems known as aerotitis media. Because of concerns about adverse health effects of radiation exposure, including the increased risk of head and neck cancer, the feasibility of identification of a large number of veterans with documented exposure for an epidemiologic study was investigated. The irradiation treatments were found to have occurred at the New London Naval Medical Research Department, at several Naval Hospitals, and aboard ships during the period from 1945 to 1952. Documentation of the treatment on veterans' medical records was sparse and inconsistent. Only 8 of 668 records reviewed were found to have evidence of the radium treatment: 7 from 33 self-reported veterans and 1 from 635 names on submarine school class rosters and submarine muster rolls. There appears to be no practical way to identify from military service and medical records a large number of submariners who received the treatment.

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