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Pac Health Dialog. 2004 Sep;11(2):216-21.

Cancer, reproductive abnormalities, and diabetes in Micronesia: the effect of nuclear testing.

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Hawai'i/Pacific Basin Area Health Education Center, Office of Medical Education, & Division of Ecology and Health, University of Hawai'i John A. Burns School of Medicine, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA.


Many suggest that cancer and other diseases in Micronesia have been caused by nuclear testing in the Pacific. The 50-year commemoration of the March 1, 1954 Bravo thermonuclear test has rekindled interest in this area. This paper explores the documentation for, and the plausibility of, claims for disease causation by nuclear testing. Given the sheer volume of testing that the US conducted in the Pacific, it appears plausible that excess cancer would have occurred in areas of Micronesia other than the Marshall Islands. An excess of birth abnormalities in the Marshall Islands has been documented. While diabetes is not a radiogenic disease, and other cancers are generally less radiogenic than leukemia or thyroid cancer, the social and cultural effects of nuclear testing specifically, and the strategic uses to which Micronesia has been put generally, have had roles in the social production of disease. Integration into a globalized, cosmopolitan economy-with attendant phenomena such as the importation of tobacco, alcohol, foods of poor nutritional value, and new cultural morés-are also factors.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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