The researchers found that a total of 111 of 46,107 children of male and female employees at nuclear establishments operated by the Atomic Energy Authority, Atomic Weapons Establishment and British Nuclear Fuels were reported to have developed a malignancy before their 25th birthday.

Among children born in 1965 or later (two thirds of all children in the study) it was possible to make comparisons with cancer rates in the general population of England and Wales. No unusual cancer patterns were evident.

The researchers set up the study to investigate possible links between child health and parents’ occupational exposure to ionising radiation.

Dr Eve Roman from the University of Leeds’ Leukaemia Research Fund, along with colleagues from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the Imperial Cancer Research Fund also found that the leukaemia rate in children whose fathers had accumulated a relatively high dose of ionising radiation (more than 100 millisieverts) before their child’s conception was higher than in children conceived before their father’s employment in the nuclear industry.

However, because this finding was based on only three cases – two of which had been reported on before – the study warns that firm conclusions cannot be drawn. The study adds that in the industries studied, high doses prior to conception were found to be rare and, even if there were an association, it could only account for three at the most of the 22 leukaemias diagnosed in almost 40,000 children born to male workers.

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