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Jpn J Cancer Res. 1998 Aug;89(8):797-805.

Human T-lymphotropic virus type-I infection, antibody titers and cause-specific mortality among atomic-bomb survivors.

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  • 1Department of Epidemiology, Radiation Effects Research Foundation, Nagasaki.


There have been few longitudinal studies on the long-term health effects of human T-lymphotropic virus type-I (HTLV-I) infection. The authors performed a cohort study of HTLV-I infection and cause-specific mortality in 3,090 atomic-bomb survivors in Nagasaki, Japan, who were followed from 1985-1987 to 1995. The prevalence of HTLV-I seropositivity in men and women was 99/1,196 (8.3%) and 171/1,894 (9.0%), respectively. During a median follow-up of 8.9 years, 448 deaths occurred. There was one nonfatal case of adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma (incidence rate = 0.46 cases/1,000 person-years; 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.01-2.6). After adjustment for sex, age and other potential confounders, significantly increased risk among HTLV-I carriers was observed for deaths from all causes (rate ratio [RR] = 1.41), all cancers (RR = 1.64), liver cancer (RR = 3.04), and heart diseases (RR = 2.22). The association of anti-HTLV-I seropositivity with mortality from all non-neoplastic diseases (RR = 1.40) and chronic liver diseases (RR = 5.03) was of borderline significance. Possible confounding by blood transfusions and hepatitis C/B (HCV/HBV) viral infections could not be precluded in this study. However, even after liver cancer and chronic liver diseases were excluded, mortality rate was still increased among HTLV-I carriers (RR = 1.32, 95% CI 0.99-1.78), especially among those with high antibody titers (RR = 1.56, 95% CI 0.99-2.46, P for trend = 0.04). These findings may support the idea that HTLV-I infection exerts adverse effects on mortality from causes other than adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma. Further studies on confounding by HCV/HBV infections and the interaction between HCV/HBV and HTLV-I may be required to analyze the increased mortality from liver cancer and chronic liver diseases.

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