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Longitudinal study of astronaut health: Mortality in the years 1959-1991We conducted a historical cohort study of mortality among 195 astronauts who were exposed to space and medical sources of radiation between 1959 and 1991. Cumulative occupational and medical radiation exposures were obtained from the astronaut radiation exposure history data base. Causes of death were obtained from obligatory death certificates and autopsy reports that were on file in the medical records. A total of 18 deaths occurred during the 32-year follow-up period for which the all-cause standardized mortality ratio (SMR) was 142 (95 percent confidence interval 84 225). There was one cancer death in the buccal cavity and pharynegeal ICD-9 rubric whose occurrence was significantly beyond expectation. Mortality for coronary disease was 59 percent lower than expected (2 deaths; SMR = 41; 95 percent confidence limit 5 147). The crude death rate for 10 occupationally related accidents was 400 deaths per 100,000 person-years, which is an order of magnitude greater than accidental death rates in mining industries. The SMR of 1027 for fatal accidents was significantly beyond expectation (14 deaths; 95 percent confidence limit 561 1723) and was similar to SMRs for accidents among aerial pesticide applications. The 10-year cumulative risk of occupational fatalities based on the exponential, Weibull, Gompertz, and linear-exponential distributions was 10 percent. Mortality from motor vehicle accidents was slightly higher than expected but was not significant (1 death; SMR = 145; 95 percent confidence limit 2 808). Radiation exposures from medical procedures accounted for a majority of cumulative dose when compared with space radiation exposures. The results of the study do not confirm the impression that astronauts are at increased risk of cancer, but this does not obviate the need for further study. Overall, it was found that astronauts are at a health disadvantage as a result of catastrophic accidents.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Peterson, Leif E. (Kelsey Seybold Clinic, P.A. Houston, TX, United States)
Date Acquired
September 6, 2013
Publication Date
February 1, 1993
Publication Information
Publication: NASA. Johnson Space Center, Sixth Annual Workshop on Space Operations Applications and Research (SOAR 1992), Volume 2
Subject Category
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.

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IDRelationTitle19940007055Analytic PrimarySixth Annual Workshop on Space Operations Applications and Research (SOAR 1992), volume 2