Long-term effects of prenatal x-ray of human females: II. Growth and development

Mary B. Meyer, James Tonascia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Experimental studies and studies of survivors of in-utero exposure to atomic bomb blasts have shown significant stunting of growth and mental retardation following these exposures. Central nervous system damage following very low doses of x-ray at around the time of birth has also been observed in experimental animals. This long term follow-up study of 1458 human females exposed in utero to diagnostic x-rays and of 1458 matched unexposed controls studied in Baltimore, Maryland, included measurements of height, weight and school achievement. Women who had been exposed to x-rays in utero were significantly shorter in their mid-twenties than were their matched, unexposed controis, even after adjustment for other social and economic factors. However, additional follow-up revealed that mothers of exposed women were also shorter than the control mothers. Short stature appeared to be a selective factor for x-ray during pregnancy (mostly peivimetry, 1947-1952). Mothers' and daughters' heights were similarly correlated among exposed and control mother-daughter pairs, suggesting that the height differences between exposed daughters and their controls were due to these selective factors rather than to any direct effect of radiation on growth. Exposed women reported poorer school achievement than control women. However, except for a higher proportion of exposed women leaving school because of pregnancy, these measurements were no longer signiflcantiy different when rates were simultaneously adjusted for socioeconomic differences between exposed and control women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)317-326
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican journal of epidemiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1981


  • Growth
  • Intelligence
  • Mental retardation
  • Pelvimetry
  • Radiation effects
  • X-ray, diagnostic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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