1960s radiation risks

Risks of radiation and Lord Adrian 

In 1961 the Medical Research Council reported on hazards of radiation in a second report and the Adrian committee on radiological hazards to patients also reported. These were reviewed in an editorial for March 1961 (BJR 1961; 34(399): 141-142) with the comment that the reports “are required reading for all radiologists.” The hazards of medical radiation were being taken seriously. Lord Adrian gave the opening address to the Annual Congress of the BIR in 1961 and gave his views on the hazards of radiation that are still relevant and worth reading and noting (Adrian BJR1961; 34 (403): 404-407). The BIR held a symposium on the implications of the report of the Adrian Committee and the discussions were printed in BJR April 1963. Sidney Osborn reviewed doses variations in radiodiagnosis (Osborn BJR 1963; 36(242): 230-234). GM Ardran commented about diagnostic aspects of the report (Ardran BJR 1963; 36(424): 235-237), FW Spiers reviewed bone marrow doses (Spiers BJR 36 1963; 36 (424): 238-240) and RH Mole considered a radiographic tissue dose (Mole BJR 1963; 36(424): 241-246). The principles remain relevant today. 

Fluoroscopy time in barium meal examinations

Image source: Osborn BJR 1963; 36(242): 230-234


Ionizing radiation

The topic of carcinognensis by ionizing radiation was of great importance and was considered by WV Mayneord in his Mackenzie Davidson Memorial Lecture of 1967 (Mayneord BJR 1967; 41(484): 241-250). Mayneord had been involved in research on carcinogenisis by chemicals and radiation for over 40 years and his views are instructive and worth reading.

Efforts to reduce dose to patients and operators were made in both diagnostic radiology and radiotherapy and numerous papers appeared. As an example Frank Ellis in Oxford considered radiation hazards to nursing staff in July 1961 (Ellis BJR 1961; 34(403): 408-415) and Nigel Trott and KW Taylor at the Royal Marsden Hospital looked at the reduction in hazards involving solid sources (Trott and Taylor and Taylor BJR1961; 34(403): 420-428).

 Radiation exposure for all radium technicians 1955

Image source: Trott and Taylor and Taylor BJR1961; 34(403): 420-428


Radiation hazards

In 1969 Jennifer Matthews from Sheffield repeated a survey of radiation hazards in diagnostic radiology (Matthews and Miller BJR 1969; 42(503):  814-817). She found that whilst the staff were aware of radiation risks and used gonadal shields that the numbers of patients radiographed were continuing to rise.

Richard Doll and PG Smith follow up of the late effects of radiotherapy for menorrhagia and other benign gynaecological conditions in May 1968 (Doll and Smith BJR 1968; 41(485): 362-368). They found that an excess of deaths from leukaemia and cancers was continuing to be observed. In March 1976 gave a further report (Doll and Smith BJR 1976; 49(579): 224-232) with similar conclusions. Robert Dickson from Mound Vernon hospital reviewed the late effects on radium used to control menorrhagia in August 1969 (Dickson BJR 1969 42(500): 582-994) in an interesting paper and found an increased incidence of uterine cancer following intracavitary use of radium. Use of DXT for benign decreased.

Table showing age of diagnosis of uterine cancer

Image source: Dickson BJR 1969 42(500): 582-994

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