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Howe, Geoffrey R.*

doi: 10.1097/01.HP.0000281178.75068.e3

The accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine in 1986 led to a substantial increase of thyroid cancer among those exposed as children. The other cancer that is the most sensitive to the effects of ionizing radiation is leukemia, and this paper evaluates the evidence relating exposure to Chernobyl radioactivity and leukemia risk. Two types of objectives are identified, namely, scientific evidence and public health, and two approaches to addressing such objectives are discussed. Empirical studies in affected populations are summarized, and it is concluded that, possibly apart from Russian cleanup workers, no meaningful evidence of any statistical association between exposure and leukemia risk as yet exists. However, it is important to carry on with such studies to satisfy various public health objectives.

* Columbia University, New York (deceased, 31 August 2006).

For correspondence contact: Thomas S. Tenforde, National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements, 7910 Woodmont Avenue, Suite 400, Bethesda, MD 20814-3095, or email at

(Manuscript accepted 29 June 2007)

©2007Health Physics Society