Research Article

Incidence of leukaemia in young people in the vicinity of Hinkley Point nuclear power station, 1959-86.

BMJ 1989; 299 doi: (Published 29 July 1989) Cite this as: BMJ 1989;299:289
  1. P. D. Ewings,
  2. C. Bowie,
  3. M. J. Phillips,
  4. S. A. Johnson
  1. Department of Public Health, Somerset Health Authority, Taunton.


    The incidence of leukaemia and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in young people (aged under 25) living in a predefined area around the nuclear power station at Hinkley Point, Somerset, was examined for the period 1959-86 by using cancer registry data. During the period since Hinley Point began operations--that is, 1964-86--there were 19 cases in the area compared with 10.4 expected from national rates, giving a standardised registration ratio of 1.82 (95% confidence interval 1.10 to 2.85). The incidence in the rest of Somerset was also high, however (standardised registration ratio 1.18; 95% confidence interval 0.98 to 1.41), and the high rate around Hinkley Point may simply have been reflecting the high local incidence (ratio of the two standardised registration ratio's 1.54; 95% confidence interval 0.90 to 2.52). Analysis of predetermined five year periods showed that the excess cases in the Hinkley Point area were concentrated in the 10 years 1964-73 after commissioning of the station, at a time when rates in the rest of Somerset were close to the national average. In particular the nine cases occurring in the five years 1969-73 were about four times the number expected from national rates (standardised registration ratio 3.96; 95% confidence interval 1.81 to 7.52). Rates in the Hinkley Point area after 1973 were fairly low, especially as compared with the rest of Somerset. In the five years 1959-63 (that is, before Hinkley Point was commissioned) rates throughout Somerset (including the Hinkley Point area) were higher than the national rate. These findings should be interpreted with caution, and further studies are required to test the plausibility of theories relating to radiation and viruses.