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Discovering the causes of cancer and the means of prevention

Techa River Cohort

A cohort study of a population exposed to radioactive waste from the Mayak nuclear weapons facility

Persons residing near the Techa River in the Southern Urals region of Russia were exposed to liquid radioactive waste discharged into the river from the Mayak plutonium production and separation nuclear plant. The exposure consisted of a complex mixture of radionuclides, largely 90Sr and 137Cs. A cohort of approximately 30,000 persons living near the Techa River has been followed by scientists at the Urals Research Center for Radiation Medicine (URCRM) for close to 50 years to quantify cancer and other serious health risks associated with this exposure. Individualized stomach and red bone marrow doses have been estimated for each cohort member. The wide range of doses allows analysis of the nature of the dose-response relationship based on internal comparisons. Other features of the cohort are the high proportion (40%) of persons who were exposed under age 20, and the inclusion of both sexes. This cohort provides a valuable opportunity to study early and late health effects related to protracted internal and external radiation exposures.

DCEG investigators collaborate with investigators from URCRM to study associations between radiation dose and cancer mortality. To date, significantly elevated risks of leukemia and solid cancer mortality have been demonstrated. Radiation-related site-specific cancer mortality is currently being evaluated.

For more information, contact Ethel Gilbert.

Related study: Radiation Exposures among Mayak Nuclear Facility Workers