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Cancer Mortality at U.S. Nuclear Weapons Tests

This mortality follow-up study will assess the risk of cancer among U. S. military personnel who participated during one of eight above ground atmospheric weapons tests at the Nevada Test Site or the Pacific Proving Grounds between 1945 and 1958.


Over 200,000 military and civilian personnel participated in 19 U.S. atmospheric nuclear weapons test series from 1945 until the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1963. More than 230 individual above ground atmospheric tests were conducted.


The goal of this study is to see if prolonged low-dose radiation exposure at atmospheric nuclear weapons tests has caused an increase in leukemia or other cancers among U.S. military participants.

Results from this study will be of service to Cold War Veterans and their families by providing them with an understanding of the risks Veterans may have incurred when serving our Nation. It will also provide an important scientific understanding of the level of lifetime risks possible from low-level radiation exposures during occupational circumstances, medical imaging examinations, environmental cleanups, nuclear waste disposal, and dirty bomb attacks.


This is a study of 120,000 United States military personnel who participated in one of eight above ground atmospheric nuclear weapons test between 1945 and 1958.


This is a records-based study. A unique aspect of this study is the use of a comprehensive dose reconstruction program to estimate radiation doses to specific organs. This was not possible in previous research studies.

In this study, researchers are paying particular attention to deaths from leukemia, and from cancers of the thyroid, salivary gland, breast, liver, and bone.

These are cancers that have been reported to be in excess among U.S. and United Kingdom atmospheric nuclear weapons test participants.


John D. Boice Jr., Sc.D.
Han K. Kang, Dr.P.H.
Tim Bullman, M.A.
A. Bertrand Brill, M.D., Ph.D.
John Till, Ph.D.
Clark Heath, M.D.
Robert Tarone, Ph.D.
Kenneth Kopecky, Ph.D.
Richard Toohey, Ph.D.