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FEATURE ARTICLE

Fallout from Nuclear Weapons Tests and Cancer Risks

Exposures 50 years ago still have health implications today that will continue into the future

Steven Simon, André Bouville, Charles Land

Figure 4. One major means...Click to Enlarge Image

By the early 1960s there was no place on Earth where the signature of atmospheric nuclear testing could not be found by analysis of residual radioactivity in soil, water and even polar ice. Cancer researchers have likewise been searching for the signature of nuclear testing—but as an increase in cancer rates. After decades of study, investigators have been able to quantify such risks—albeit with a significant amount of uncertainty—and have even developed a Web-based calculator that allows U.S. residents to estimate their risk of developing thyroid cancer as a result of exposure to iodine-131. The authors explain how, and how much, radioactive fallout has affected cancer risk and review what the results may tell us about the threat of radioactive terrorism.


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