Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Follow up study of children born elsewhere but attending schools in Seascale, West Cumbria (schools cohort).

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1987; 295 doi: (Published 03 October 1987) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1987;295:819
  1. M J Gardner,
  2. A J Hall,
  3. S Downes,
  4. J D Terrell
  1. MRC Environmental Epidemiology Unit (University of Southampton), Southampton General Hospital.


    Records on 1546 children who were identified as having attended schools in Seascale up to November 1984 and were born since 1950 but not in the civil parish were studied. These children lived in or near Seascale for a period of time while they were attending one or more of three local schools and are an additional group to the 1068 children who were identified as born to mothers resident in Seascale in an accompanying study. Even though some of the schoolchildren apparently remained in the village for a short period only all but 7% were followed up through the National Health Service Central Register. Mortality among these children to 30 June 1986 is comparable to that expected at national rates. From all causes there were 10 observed deaths compared with 12.69 expected--a ratio of 0.79 (95% confidence interval 0.38 to 1.45)--and from cancer one observed death compared with 2.04 expected--a ratio of 0.49 (95% CI 0.01 to 2.73). No deaths from leukaemia or lymphoma were reported, but only 0.83 was expected. Since 1971 (the year when cases of cancer were first notified to the NHS Central Register) three non-fatal cases of cancer were reported, including two lymphomas, compared with 2.04 expected and two cases of carcinoma in situ of the cervix compared with 1.79 expected. In addition, there was a case of leukaemia among the schoolchildren which was known previously and had been diagnosed in 1968. There is an interesting difference between the results of this study and the results of the study of children born to mothers who were resident in Seascale. In the latter study there was an excess of leukaemia and of other cancers, but a similar finding is not apparent among children who spent some time at schools in Seascale but were born elsewhere. This raises the question of whether one or more aetiological factors in childhood cancer were acting on a locality specific basis before birth or early in life. This cannot be answered from these cohort studies, but it is hoped that the case-control study that is under way in West Cumbria will provide relevant information.