In a nuclear war, children who survive the acute effects of radiation—the blast and intense heat—may also have to survive the loss or disability of parents who provide food, shelter, and love, so necessary for physical and emotional development. The likelihood of provision of even limited medical services following a nuclear blast is virtually nil. Finally, persons exposed to radiation as children have a substantially greater susceptibility to delayed effects than do those persons exposed as adults.
1. The peak frequency for leukemia is higher and occurs earlier among those less than 15 years of age exposed to radiation than among those who are older.
2. Breast cancer occurs excessively when females who were exposed to radiation during childhood reach the usual age for developing this malignancy. The rates for breast cancer for those who were 10 to 19 years of age at the time of the bomb are greater than those for females who were older at that time. Unexpectedly, an excessive occurrence of breast cancer has been observed among females who were 9 years old or younger at the time of the bomb, an age range when they would have had very little breast tissue. If cases continue to occur at the same rate as these women grow older, the excessive occurrence of breast cancer will be greater than among all other age groups.
3. Persons less than 30 years old at the time of the bomb are apparently more susceptible than older persons to radiogenic thyroid cancer. Benign thyroid tumors have occurred among nearly all children exposed to radioiodine-containing fallout from a nuclear weapons test on the Marshall Islands in 1954.
- Copyright © 1983 by the American Academy of Pediatrics