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Health Agencies Update
November 17, 1999

Atomic Veterans

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JAMA. 1999;282(19):1805. doi:10.1001/jama.282.19.1805-JHA90009-4-1

"Atomic veterans"—American military personnel who were present at atmospheric nuclear weapons test sites in the Nevada desert or the South Pacific—have a higher risk of certain cancers, according to a new report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM). More than 200,000 members of the US armed forces participated in the tests between 1945 and 1963.

Veterans present at land-based tests in Nevada had a 50% higher risk of fatal leukemia than individuals in similar units who did not take part in the tests, although those at test sites in the South Pacific showed no such increased risk. Some surprising findings included a 20% higher risk of fatal prostate cancer and a 160% higher risk of nasal cancer in atomic veterans.

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