Death rates increased by up to 24 per cent in children aged nine or younger, depending on how close the children lived to a plant. In young people up to the age of 25, the death rate rose as high as 18 per cent in some areas.
Overall incidence rates of leukaemia increased by 21 per cent in children aged up to nine years, and by 10 per cent in young people aged up to 25 years.
The study is one of the first to take a global view of the problem. The researchers looked at 17 study papers that covered 136 nuclear sites in the UK, Canada, France, the USA, Germany, Japan and Spain.
As nuclear plants are usually sited in rural areas, the population size has often been too small for a meaningful scientific study. The research team, from the Medical University of South Carolina, were able to measure the health of the local populations before and after a nuclear plant was installed.
(Source: European Journal of Cancer Care, 2007; 16: 355-63).