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The cancer epidemic in Fukushima. What is the impact on Japanese children and adolescents had an accident at the plant

What is the impact on Japanese children and adolescents had an accident at the plant
Раковая эпидемия Фукусимы. Какое влияние на японских детей и подростков оказала авария на АЭС

Five years ago the accident at the nuclear power plant Fukushima-1 has put Japan under threat of environmental disaster. Found after harvest of thyroid abnormalities, including cancer, have puzzled scientists and alarmed local residents. The journal “Science” discusses recent findings and discussions of the scientific and medical community.

In March 2011 an earthquake and tsunami on NPP Fukushima-1 accident: reactors began melting because of a broken cooling system. It caused a lot of suffering people: the evacuation, emotional trauma, premature death, destruction of jobs and schooling. Of the reactors spewed tenth of the amount of radiation emitted after the Chernobyl accident, a strong wind soon blew the sea, catching small part of the coastal territory. The evacuation was carried out quickly. But still the accident is caused and a wave of diseases, paradoxically resulting from good intentions wide screening program.

A few months after the disaster, Fukushima Prefecture has checked the status of the thyroid gland in hundreds of thousands of children and adolescents. The study was unprecedented, and no one knew what to expect from him. After the first stage of the inspection, the pathology of the thyroid gland was detected in almost half of the children. Of these, more than one hundred and was later diagnosed with cancer.



Раковая эпидемия Фукусимы. Какое влияние на японских детей и подростков оказала авария на АЭС

This was the result of “overdiagnosis and over-treatment,” said a specialist in public medicine from the University of Tokyo Kenji Shibuya. But various activists began loudly to declare that the results speak about the dangers of nuclear power. For example, the anti-nuclear “Crusader” Helen Caldicott wrote that a large number of anomalies that appeared immediately after the accident, “indicates that these children almost certainly received a very high dose of radiation from teriitehau inhaled into the body radioactive iodine”.

But scientists strongly disagree with the activists. “Data show that the vast majority, and perhaps all cases are not detected because of the radiation,” says Dillwyn Williams, a specialist in the thyroid gland from Cambridge University. Last month in the scientific journal “Epidemiology” in articles and letters by scientists attacked the alarmists with their interpretations.


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The story about the accident at Fukushima-1, March 2011

Many assume that first you need the basic data from uncontaminated areas, and the public must be educated to understand the situation and the caution to wait instead of immediate surgical intervention. But most say that the study was a clue in the medical puzzle: why the anomalies of the thyroid gland so prevalent among children? Williams believes that the unexpected results indicate, “how much more of carcinoma in the thyroid gland receives in early life than previously thought”.


The thyroid gland is located in the neck below the larynx and front of the trachea. It is designed to produce and store iodine-containing hormones that affect cell growth and metabolism.




The memory of Chernobyl gave the Japanese authorities a cause for concern. Specifically the consequences of radioactive iodine spread in the territory of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia in April 1986, got to the cows that were grazing in the pastures. Children who drank tainted thus the milk, radioactive iodine accumulated in the thyroid gland. It should be noted that in adults the absorption of iodine less.

In 2006, the world Health Organization (who) showed about 5 thousand of cancer cases in the contaminated areas among those who were younger than 18 at the time of the accident (though the report notes that many diseases could emerge over time). The UN in the same year, said about 15 children’s deaths from Chernobyl thyroid cancer. It should be noted that this cancer is detected in its early stages, is almost always cured by removing the entities.



Раковая эпидемия Фукусимы. Какое влияние на японских детей и подростков оказала авария на АЭС

Source: “the accident at the NPP “Fukushima-1″: through the prism of the Chernobyl disaster”, Andrey Filchenkov, 2015

Japanese authorities set out to check all 368 651 residents of Fukushima, who were under the age of 18 at the time of the accident. Most experts didn’t expect a record “yield” problems with their health. In the beginning the number of potentially exposed was insignificant compared to Chernobyl (the maximal doses to the thyroid in 100-1000 times lower — approx. “Iodine”). The next day after the accident were evacuated 150 thousand people living within a radius of 20 kilometers from the plant, and a week later they began to check. In addition, they were given pills that block the absorption of radioactive iodine through the diet.

In 2013 the who estimated that 12 to 25 millisieverts (mSv) of radiation in the first year after the accident may lead to small increases in cancer incidence. For comparison around the world, people receive on average 2.4 mSv per year from background radiation and medical x-rays of the chest in the body delivers about 0.1 mSv. In women, the risk of developing thyroid cancer has been estimated at 0.75 %, in the most contaminated parts of Fukushima he goes on further to 0.5 %. The first stage of screening, which began in late 2011, was required just to collect data, as the manifestation of radiation swollen expected at least four years. Children with the size of the nodes greater than 5 mm or cysts larger than 20.1 mm underwent a more detailed examination and fine needle aspiration. After the first screening of people supposed to test every two years until they reach the age of 20 and then every five years.




The findings of the first stage of screening were published in August 2015, and showed that about 50% of patients had 300 476 nodes and solid fluid-filled cysts on the thyroid gland. Studies in other countries suggest that such small education prevalent at all times. In fact, “experts don’t know, high or low frequency in the results of the studies in Fukushima,” says Noboru, Takamura, studied the effect of atomic bombs on health at the University of Nagasaki.

The number of confirmed cancers has grown along with supporters linking these facts with radiation. In 2013 Toshihide environmental epidemiologist, Tsuda from Okayama University at international conferences began to declare that the number of cases is unusually high. In October last year he published in the electronic version of the “Epidemiology” the information about cancer diagnostics in the range from 0 to 605 cases per million children depending on location, but in General, “approximately 30 times increased” level in comparison with the normal situation. Approval ensured the emergence of alarming headlines.



Other scholars soon put these findings to criticism. They said, Tsuda compared the results from the study in Fukushima, where they used cutting-edge ultrasound devices that detect subtle growths, with the usual inspections, which is usually found three cases of thyroid cancer per million people. “It is inappropriate to compare data from Fukushima with the registry data in other parts of Japan, where, in General, was not held such a large-scale screening,” wrote epidemiologist Richard introduction to implementation issues from the University of Manchester on behalf of the 11 members of the working group of who experts on the consequences of the accident. This was only one of the seven letters that Deplete the findings and methodology Tsuda, which was published in “Epidemiology” at the beginning of this year.



Раковая эпидемия Фукусимы. Какое влияние на японских детей и подростков оказала авария на АЭС

Source: Eiichiro Ochiai, “The Human Consequences of the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant Accidents”, 2015


To confirm or refute assumptions expert team of Noboru Takamura decided to check on Fukushima the scheme of 4,365 children aged 3-18 years in three far removed from each other prefectures of Japan. They found a similar number of nodules, cysts and cancer cases per million residents — 230. Other studies, conducted in Japan, showed from 300 to even 350 and 1300 cases per million people. “Propagation of ultrasonic methods in other regions of Japan, not significantly different from Fukushima Prefecture,” adds Takamura. In a letter in “Epidemiology” Tsuda in response argues that there is a delay between when the ultrasound diagnose cancer and when it can be detected clinically. He did not consider the other criticisms and have not responded to repeated requests for comment from the publication “Science”.



Although many scientists do not agree with Tsudoi and anti-nuclear activists, they support screening. “Thyroid screening program will save lives, sooner or later detecting cancer, regardless of whether it is associated with radioactivity,” — says physicist Timothy Jorgensen from Georgetown University, Washington. From this story it became clear that the public and even many doctors are not able to understand the perspective of cancer. After all, the vast majority of thyroid abnormalities is safe to simply ignore. Almost all patients with a diagnosis of thyroid cancer had to have my tonsils out, although experience shows that often it is better to wait. “Careful observation is the best option,” notes Kenji Shibuya.



Раковая эпидемия Фукусимы. Какое влияние на японских детей и подростков оказала авария на АЭС

Source: Eiichiro Ochiai, “The Human Consequences of the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant Accidents”, 2015

Interestingly, in 1999 the South Korean government initiated a Wellness program, under which health care providers conducted screenings of the thyroid gland for a small fee. As a result, the incidence of cancer of the thyroid “exploded” in 2011 the level was 15 times more than in 1993. However, mortality has not changed. Almost all who are diagnosed have undergone complete or partial removal of the gland and for life in need of substitutes. To stop this “epidemic” Hyong Sik Ahn and his colleagues from Seoul University call to abandon routine screening.

Words of Cambridge scientist Dilwyn Williams, growths on the thyroid gland among children was more prevalent than previously thought. It is the survey after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, promises to improve understanding of the origin and development of such entities, and thus treatment methods.



Material Dennis Normile from the journal “Science”

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