Research finds link between radiation exposure and risk of developing kidney disease

by Michiko Tanaka, Staff Writer

Research conducted by the Radiation Effects Research Foundation (RERF), with facilities in the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, has found that the risk of suffering from chronic kidney disease rises among A-bomb survivors who were exposed to higher doses of radiation from the atomic bombings. Chronic kidney disease, if left untreated, often results in a heart attack or stroke, as well as kidney failure. According to RERF, this is the first time that a link between chronic kidney disease and the dose of radiation exposure has been found.

Researchers, including Nobuko Sera at the RERF laboratory in Nagasaki, looked at data involving 1,040 A-bomb survivors of the Nagasaki bombing who underwent medical checkups at RERF between 2004 and 2007. The researchers analyzed the relationship between the presence or absence of kidney failure and the levels of radiation suffered by a total of 746 A-bomb survivors for whom estimated doses could be made.

As a result, the researchers determined that the higher the dose of radiation exposure, the more likely the person fell prey to chronic kidney disease. According to their calculations, an increase of one sievert in the level of radiation exposure heightens the risk of developing chronic kidney disease by 1.29 times and the risk of severe chronic kidney disease by 3.19 times.

Among the 746 A-bomb survivors, 162 suffer from chronic kidney disease, including 13 who have severe chronic kidney disease. “We now want to expand the data in order to make the analysis more statistically reliable,” Ms. Sera said. The researchers plan to pursue a wider-scale analysis by adding data from the survivors of the Hiroshima bombing.

(Originally published on February 7, 2013)