Previous studies on childhood cancer and nuclear power plants (NPPs) produced conflicting results. We used a cohort approach to examine whether residence near NPPs was associated with leukaemia or any childhood cancer in Switzerland.
We computed person-years at risk for children aged 0-15 years born in Switzerland from 1985 to 2009, based on the Swiss censuses 1990 and 2000 and identified cancer cases from the Swiss Childhood Cancer Registry. We geo-coded place of residence at birth and calculated incidence rate ratios (IRRs) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) comparing the risk of cancer in children born <5 km, 5-10 km and 10-15 km from the nearest NPP with children born >15 km away, using Poisson regression models.
We included 2925 children diagnosed with cancer during 21 117 524 person-years of follow-up; 953 (32.6%) had leukaemia. Eight and 12 children diagnosed with leukaemia at ages 0-4 and 0-15 years, and 18 and 31 children diagnosed with any cancer were born <5 km from a NPP. Compared with children born >15 km away, the IRRs (95% CI) for leukaemia in 0-4 and 0-15 year olds were 1.20 (0.60-2.41) and 1.05 (0.60-1.86), respectively. For any cancer, corresponding IRRs were 0.97 (0.61-1.54) and 0.89 (0.63-1.27). There was no evidence of a dose-response relationship with distance (P > 0.30). Results were similar for residence at diagnosis and at birth, and when adjusted for potential confounders. Results from sensitivity analyses were consistent with main results.
This nationwide cohort study found little evidence of an association between residence near NPPs and the risk of leukaemia or any childhood cancer.