Study on Leukemia in the Czechoslovak Uranium Miners

Radon exposure has had long-lasting impacts on the health of Czechoslovak uranium miners, many of whom were political prisoners. While it is well known that radon exposure causes lung cancer, this study found that leukemia, and particularly chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), was also significantly associated with this exposure. Myeloid leukemia and Hodgkin lymphoma may have a correlation with working in these uranium mines as well, although this was not shown to be statistically significant. The study was a follow-up of a 1998 study that noticed a significant increase in leukemia rates in miners who had spent at least one year underground. 

The data, gathered from a sample of over 23,000 male Příbram miners between 1949 and 1977, showed that, by 1996, about 3,000 had cancer of any type, and 177 had cases of leukemia, lymphoma, or multiple myeloma. Those who had worked in the mine for more than one year were much more likely to have cancer than subjects who worked less. Additionally, subjects who had worked in the mine more recently had lower rates of cancer, since working conditions and radon exposure were much worse in the earlier days of the mines. Given the long sentences and poor living conditions of political prisoners, it is likely that they were disproportionately affected by this hazard. 

See the whole study here: Incidence of Leukemia, Lymphoma, and Multiple Myeloma in Czech Uranium Miners: A Case-Cohort Study

By Charlotte Straley