The Marshall Island have been the site for many nuclear tests by the United States. While it has a small population of around 69,000, they have benefitted by receiving around $759 million dollars in compensation over the years for those nuclear tests by the United States. The basis for that compensation would seem to be for health effects of the nuclear tests: cancer and birth defects.†
The Wikipedia article states that there has been an increase in cancer and birth defects:
Nuclear tests at Enewatak have left islanders there suffering from Cancer and birth defects.
The citation points to a website for health statistics on the Marshall Islands, but does not mention cancer or birth defects, or direct one to more information about anyone "suffering from cancer and birth defects".
I'm skeptical of this claim because it seems unsupported by fact and it's overly vague. This is a notable claim because it's not just believed that cancer and birth defects would arise from the nuclear tests, but I understand these health effects underly the basis for the huge payments to the people of the Marshall Islands as compensation.
As regards cancer rates, an article by the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health entitled “Radiation doses and cancer risks in the Marshall Islands associated with exposure to radioactive fallout from Bikini and Enewetak nuclear weapons tests” states:
About 170 excess cancers (radiation-related cases) are projected to occur among more than 25,000 Marshallese, half of whom were born before 1948. All but about 65 of those cancers are estimated to have already been expressed. The 170 excess cancers are in comparison to about 10,600 cancers that would spontaneously arise, unrelated to radioactive fallout, among the same cohort of Marshallese people.
If I read that correctly, the increase in cancer on the Marshall Islands is less than 1% (i.e. 170 more cancer diagnoses than the background rate of around 10,600). I would not call that particularly significant, speaking in absolute terms or relative ones.
Is this study incorrect or have I misunderstood it, and there was a significant increase in cancer arising out of the Marshall Islands nuclear tests? Was there any significant increase in birth defects? Am I incorrect about the basis for compensation being for the health effects?
I'm not skeptical as to whether radiation can increase cancer and birth defects; only whether there has been a significant increase in the Marshall Islands since the US tested nuclear weapons there.
† I have not verified the basis for compensation to the islands being health effects; clarification would change the notability of this claim somewhat.