Long-term effects of prenatal x-ray of human females: I. Reproductive experience

Mary B. Meyer, James Tonascia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A cohort of singleton black human females exposed to diagnostic x-ray in utero and controls matched by parity, hospital of birth and birthdate have been followed to ages 25-30 years in Baltimore, Maryland. The search for possible effects of prenatal irradiation has focused on health, growth, development and reproductive experience of exposed and control women. This paper reports findings related to reproductive experience. From an original data set of 1458 matched exposed-control pairs of women, questionnaire responses were received from 1109 exposed and 1124 control women including 852 each from pairs in which both the exposed and control woman responded. After careful search for alternative explanations of the findings, the authors concluded that females exposed in utero to low doses of x-ray (probably 1-5 rads) had significant increases in their rates of early onset of menses, births at age 15 years or less, numbers of living children, stillbirths, and sterilizing operations by their mid-twenties. These findings are compatible with animal studies in which prenatal irradiation kills many oocytes, but accelerates the development of remaining cells to stages more closely correlated with fertility. Although these animals subsequently became sterile, this cannot be tested in the current study because significantly more of the irradiated women have had surgical sterilizations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)304-316
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican journal of epidemiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1981


  • Diagnostic
  • Fertility
  • Menarche
  • Pelvimetry
  • Radiation effects
  • Sterilization
  • X-ray

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology


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