Forty-one atmospheric nuclear weapons tests (plus five safety tests) were conducted in French Polynesia between 1966 and 1974. To evaluate the potential role of atmospheric nuclear weapons testing on a high incidence of thyroid cancer observed since 1985 in French Polynesia, a population-based case-control study was performed. The study included 602 subjects, either cases or controls, all aged less than 40 y at the end of nuclear weapons testing in 1974. Radiation doses to the thyroids of the study subjects were assessed based on the available historical results of radiation measurements. These were mainly found in the annual reports on the radiological situation in French Polynesia that had been sent to the UNSCEAR Secretariat. For each atmospheric nuclear weapons test that contributed substantially to the local deposition of radionuclides, the radiation dose to the thyroid from 131I intake was estimated. In addition, thyroid doses from the intake of short-lived radioiodines (132I, 133I, 135I) and 132Te, external exposure from gamma-emitted radionuclides deposited on the ground, and ingestion of long-lived 137Cs were reconstructed. The mean thyroid dose among the study subjects was found to be around 3 mGy while the highest dose was estimated to be around 40 mGy. Doses from short-lived iodine and tellurium isotopes ranged up to 10 mGy. Thyroid doses from external exposure ranged up to 3 mGy, while those from internal exposure due to cesium ingestion did not exceed 1 mGy. The dose estimates that have been obtained are based on a rather limited number of radiation measurements performed on a limited number of islands and are highly uncertain. A thorough compilation of the results of all radiation monitoring that was performed in French Polynesia in 1966–1974 would be likely to greatly improve the reliability and the precision of the dose estimates.
* International Agency for Research on Cancer, 150, Cours Albert Thomas, Lyon, Cedex 08, F-69372, France; † National Cancer Institute, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, Bethesda, MD 20892; ‡ National Institute for Health and Medical Research, INSERM Unit 605, Villejuif, F-94800 France; § Institute Gustave-Roussy, Villejuif, F-94800, France; ** University Paris XI, Villejuif, F-94800, France.
For correspondence contact: Vladimir Drozdovitch, National Cancer Institute, 6120 Executive Boulevard, EPS-7100, Bethesda, MD 20892, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Manuscript accepted 5 November 2007)