Radiation Exposures of Hanford Workers: A Critique of the Mancuso, Stewart and Kneale Report

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Mancuso, Stewart and Kneale published an analysis of Hanford mortality data in the November 1977 issue of Health Physics. Their analysis was based mainly on a case/control comparison of mean cumulative radiation records in cancer vs non-cancer deaths of Hanford employees, and indicated approximately 25 radiation-induced cancers, concentrated mainly in cancers of the reticulo-endothelial system, especially the bone-marrow cancers: myeloid leukemia and myeloma. A second analysis, based on a proportionate mortality comparison of the Hanford deaths with general U.S. mortality patterns appeared to confirm this conclusion. However, it can be shown that not only was this second analysis carried out in an incorrect manner, but that both the corrected and uncorrected figures contradict the main analysis, yielding an apparent deficit in deaths from both leukemia and total Reticulo Endothelial System cancers. The main analysis was based on mean cumulative exposures that were distorted by a few abnormally high figures, leading to implausible estimates of excess deaths. Nonetheless, the two methods of analysis were consistent in indicating some excess deaths from myeloma, cancer of the pancreas, and (possibly) cancer of the lung, as well as a deficit in leukemia deaths. It is suggested that this pattern is unlikely to be due to exposure to external radiation, and that other occupational and non-occupational carcinogens should be considered, the exposure to which may have been fortuitously correlated with exposure to radiation.

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