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Radiat Res. 1999 Jun;151(6):736-46.

Effects of radiation on the longitudinal trends of total serum cholesterol levels in the atomic bomb survivors.

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Department of Statistics, Clinical Studies, Radiation Effects Research Foundation, Hiroshima, Japan.


The effects of radiation on the long-term trends of the total serum cholesterol levels of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bomb survivors were examined using data collected in the Adult Health Study over a 28-year period (1958-1986). The growth-curve method was used to model the longitudinal age-dependent changes in cholesterol levels. For each sex, temporal trends of cholesterol levels were characterized with respect to age, body mass index, city and birth year. We then examined whether the temporal trends differed by radiation dose. We showed that the mean growth curve of cholesterol levels for the irradiated subjects were significantly higher than that for the unirradiated subjects, and that the increase was greater for women than for men. No difference in dose response was detected between Hiroshima and Nagasaki. An increased mean level of cholesterol was evident for irradiated women in general, but a notable increase was apparent in males only for the youngest birth cohort of 1935-1945. The difference in the mean cholesterol levels between the irradiated and unirradiated subjects diminished past 70 years of age. It is not known whether this is due to natural progression or is an artifact of nonrandom variation in the rate of participation in the examinations. The maximum predicted increase at 1 Gy for women occurred at age 52 years for the 1930 cohort: 2.5 mg/dl (95% CI 1.6-3.3 mg/dl) for Hiroshima and 2.3 mg/dl (95% CI 1.5-3.1 mg/dl) for Nagasaki. The corresponding increase for men occurred at age 29 years for the 1940 cohort: 1.6 mg/dl (95% CI 0.4-2.8) for Hiroshima and 1.4 mg/dl (95% CI 0.3-2.6) for Nagasaki. Controlling for cigarette smoking did not alter the dose-response relationship. Although the difference in the mean growth curves of the irradiated and unirradiated groups was statistically significant, there was a considerable overlap in the individual growth curves of the two groups. The significant sex difference and the greater magnitude of radiation effects in women suggest that hormonal changes resulting from radiation exposure, such as accelerated menopause, is an area worth investigating to delineate the mechanisms underlying the increased cholesterol levels of the irradiated female subjects. This increase may also partially explain the increased rate of coronary heart disease seen in the atomic bomb survivors.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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