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Article
November 3, 1956

ROLE OF THE GENERAL PHYSICIAN IN THE ATOMIC AGE

JAMA. 1956;162(10):962-966. doi:10.1001/jama.1956.02970270022008
Abstract

• It is essential for all physicians, and particularly the general physician, to be alerted to the new health and hazard problems related to the peacetime use of nuclear radiation. This knowledge will also aid him well in event of atomic warfare.

The use of radioactive substances alone has increased tremendously in industry, pharmaceuticals, and medicine in general. Employment exposures to nuclear products impose an immediate responsibility to the physician to be aware not only of the sideeffects of radiation but more so of the diagnosis and treatment of overexposed patients. The complaints of malaise, lassitude, and anorexia unsupported by the usual clinical causes; gastrointestinal symptoms; dermatological conditions; or bizarre or unrecognized hematological changes in those patients working with or in the vicinity of nuclear radiation should alert the physician to consider these symptoms as perhaps manifestations of overexposure to radiation.

Today the supposed safe limit of 300 mr per week total body exposure is only approximate and not conclusively free of danger. Even those patients not overly exposed may develop "radiophobe" attitudes, with obsessions necessitating careful and patient guidance by the physician.

This is a new branch of clinical medicine, still not propounded in the medical literature nor included in the medical school curriculum, yet it faces some of us today and will face many of us in practice in the near future.

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