Studies of health effects in animals after exposure to internally deposited radionuclides were intended to supplement observational studies in humans. Both nuclear workers and Beagle dogs have exhibited plutonium-associated lung fibrosis; however, the dogs' smaller gene pool may limit the applicability of findings to humans. Data on Beagles that inhaled either plutonium-238 dioxide (238PuO2) or plutonium-239 dioxide (239PuO2) were analyzed. Wright's Coefficient of Inbreeding was used to measure genetic or familial susceptibility and was assessed as an explanatory variable when modeling the association between lung fibrosis incidence and plutonium exposure. Lung fibrosis was diagnosed in approximately 80% of the exposed dogs compared with 23.7% of the control dogs. The maximum degree of inbreeding was 9.4%. Regardless of isotope, the addition of inbreeding significantly improved the model in female dogs but not in males. In female dogs, an increased inbreeding coefficient predicted decreased hazard of a lung fibrosis diagnosis. Lung fibrosis was common in these dogs with inbreeding affecting models of lung fibrosis incidence in females but not in males. The apparent protective effect in females predicted by these models of lung fibrosis incidence is likely to be minimal given the small degree of inbreeding in these groups.
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Vol. 176 • No. 6