The purpose of this study is to quantify cancer mortality in relationship to organ-specific radiation dose among women irradiated for benign gynecologic disorders. Included in this study are 12,955 women treated for benign gynecologic disorders at hospitals in the Northeastern U.S. between 1925 and 1965; 9,770 women treated by radiation and 3,186 women treated by other methods. The average age at treatment was 45.9 years (range, 13–88 years), and the average follow-up period was 30.1 years (maximum, 69.9 years). Radiation doses to organs and active bone marrow were reconstructed by medical physicists using original radiotherapy records. The highest doses were received by the uterine cervix (median, 120 Gy) and uterine corpus (median, 34 Gy), followed by the bladder, rectum and colon (median, 1.7–7.2 Gy), with other abdominal organs receiving median doses ≤1 Gy and organs in the chest and head receiving doses <0.1 Gy. Standardized mortality rate ratios relative to the general U.S. population were calculated. Radiation-related risks were estimated in internal analyses using Poisson regression models. Mortality was significantly elevated among irradiated women for cancers of the uterine corpus, ovary, bladder, rectum, colon and brain, as well as for leukemia (exclusive of chronic lymphocytic leukemia) but not for cancer of the cervix, Hodgkin or non-Hodgkin lymphoma, multiple myeloma, or chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Evidence of a dose-response was seen for cancers of the ovary [excess relative risk (ERR) = 0.31/Gy, P < 0.001], bladder (ERR = 0.21/Gy, P = 0.02) and rectum (ERR = 0.23/Gy, P = 0.05) and suggested for colon (ERR = 0.09/Gy, P = 0.10), but not for cancers of the uterine corpus or brain nor for non-chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Relative risks of mortality due to cancers of the stomach, pancreas, liver and kidney were close to 1.0, with no evidence of dose-response over the range of 0–1.5 Gy. Breast cancer was not significantly associated with dose to the breast or ovary. Mortality due to cancers of heavily irradiated organs remained elevated up to 40 years after irradiation. Significantly elevated radiation-related risk was seen for cancers of organs proximal to the radiation source or fields (bladder, rectum and ovary), as well as for non-chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Our results corroborate those from previous studies that suggest that cells of the uterine cervix and lymphopoietic system are relatively resistant to the carcinogenic effects of radiation. Studies of women irradiated for benign gynecologic disorders, together with studies of women treated with higher doses of radiation for uterine cancers, provide quantitative information on cancer risks associated with a broad range of pelvic radiation exposures.
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Vol. 178 • No. 4