Number of Fukushima kids with thyroid cancer jumps by 17 from December

JIJI

The Fukushima Prefectural Government has confirmed in a new report that 50 children in the prefecture have developed thyroid cancer, an increase of 17 from previous study last December, sources said Monday.

The latest report, made Monday to an expert panel examining the results of health checkups on Fukushima residents, also detailed 39 children suspected of having developed cancer, sources said.

The cancer figure was taken at the end of March among Fukushima residents who were 18 or younger at the time of the March 2011 nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 atomic plant.

After studying data provided so far, including the new cancer figures, the panel said it was difficult to determine that a causal link existed between the children’s cancers and the triple meltdown at the nuclear plant.

The Fukushima health examination program covers some 370,000 residents. Of them, some 80 percent have already received the checkups.

Once the results of the first round checkups become available, likely in August, the panel will again assess the thyroid cancer numbers and any possible connection between the cancers and the accident, the sources said.

  • Mike Wyckoff

    I hope these kids get the best care and families are reimbursed 1,000 times.

  • Starviking

    From the paper “Cancer Incidence and Incidence Rates in Japan in 2005″, we get that the age range 55-59 is that with the highest number of new thyroid cancers for men and women. However, if you’re talking about ‘at risk from I-131′, I’d agree with you.

    The paper gives the following age-specific incidence rates per 100,000 per year for males and females:

    Age Male Female
    0-4 0.0 0.0
    5-9 0.0 0.0
    10-14 0.0 0.1
    15-19 0.5 0.7
    20-24 1.0 3.1
    25-29 1.4 4.9
    30-34 1.6 5.8

    Now in 2010, Fukushima Prefecture had:

    82,000 0-4s; 92,000 5-9s; 102,000 10-14s; and 101,000 15-19s in 2010 (Info from Statistics Japan)

    Notice how many more cases females get! It’s a big disease for women. If you divide age group population in half you get a rough male-female population. Now we know the new scanners are much more accurate than the normal method of just seeing the doctor about a lump – so let’s take each age range before 20, and see how many cases we see if we assume the scanners pick up slow-growing cancers that would have appeared over the next 3 age groups. This means for 0-4 Males we would apply 0.5 (0.0 + 0.0 + 0.0 + 0.5), Females we would apply 0.8 (0.0 + 0.0 + 0.1 + 0.7).

    Once you do this for all the Males and Females 0 to 19, you find the expected number of cancers to be 18.59 (Yup, I know there’s no such thing as 0.59 of a cancer, but we’re looking for ballpark figures here). Now, that’s how many we might expect to see per year with the scanner, but it’s been 3.2 years since the disaster. If you multiply by 3.2, you get an expected 59.5 cancers.

    This seems to match the reports pretty well.

    • Sam Gilman

      As I’m sure you’ll appreciate, I’ve no problem with the verdict of researchers that these cancers are almost certainly not the result of Fukushima. They’re qualified and respected by their peers and so on and so forth.

      However, I’m not sure of your calculations. Maybe I’ve misunderstood, but are you not double (or more)-counting latent cancers? For example, a cancer that might become ordinarily clinical in ten years time is being discovered three times (in three different cohorts). Am I missing something here? Also, the screening began rather less than three years after the disaster. (I’ve tried working out how the latency calculation should be done myself, but my head started hurting)

      This is what I think may be an important issue: do we know what percentage of latent thyroid cancers go on to become full cancers?

      • Starviking

        What the data shows is the rate of new cancers per year in the age groups. Now this data is for 2005, and to save time I assumed the rate would be the same for subsequent years, as this was just an attempt at a ballpark figure. A more robust analysis would take time and resources that I lack right now.

        The latent cancer question is an interesting one, and I’ll have to look at it when I get the time. It is becoming a big issue in the medical field, as many cancers are being discovered with our new high-resolution scanners that possibly would present no risk in a patient’s lifetime. These cancers are now termed ‘incidentalomas’, as they are usually found when some other bodily problem is being investigated.

      • Sam Gilman

        I tried it a different way: I broke the population down into cohorts by year (assuming an even age/sex spread in each age group you listed) and then mapped out how many thyroid cancers one would expect the whole population to present over the next x number of years, to see how many there would be if we caught them all now. (This is on Excel).

        Does that sound right to you?

        So, this is with a health warning, but based over the next ten years, I think we’d expect 28 cancers. Over the next 15, 64.

        So the latency issue is rather important.

      • Starviking

        Sounds like a reasonable methodology to me. I’d need to run the numbers though, and I’ve been too busy to do anything like that of late – hence the late reply

  • AudioTactics

    According to my calculations, there has been an increase in children’s thyroid cancer rates in the Fukushima Prefecture of an average of 27,200% since the nuclear accident at Fukushima, yet somehow the Japanese authorities say it is difficult to determine that a causal link exists between the children’s cancers and the triple meltdown at the nuclear plant. When you compare juvenile thyroid cancer incidence since the accident with baseline juvenile thyroid cancer rates, it becomes very obvious that there has been a massive increase after the accident.

    The annual baseline (normal case) = .02 to .3 cases per 100,000 children = 0.0000002 to .000003 while the total number of cases confirmed or suspected of cancer as reported by the Fukushima Prefectural Government is 90 . This means that the current average annual Fukushima rate = 90 in 295,000 tested children over 3 years = .000102 and that is an increase of 3,400% to 51,000% (34x increase to 510x increase) or an average of 27,200% (272x increase).

    If we are going to be forced to use nuclear power, then let’s at least be honest about the resulting dangers from nuclear accidents so that we can make the right decisions for the future of our planet.

    • Sam Gilman

      I applaud your call for making a judgement on nuclear power based on an honest consideration of the facts and scientific opinion.

      However I would question your calculations, as they are not based on comparing like with like. It’s not simply the government, but highly respected researchers from Japan and internationally, saying that the current thyroid cancers found through screening are not an indication of cancers from Fukushima radiation, and for good reason.

      The figures you cite as the thyroid rates per year are the number of thyroid cancers discovered each year by regular means. This when they have grown large enough to generate symptoms in a patient, who decides to go to the doctor, who decides the right diagnostic test, which discovers the cancer, which gets reported in the national stats.

      On the other hand, the screening process – which consists of specialists using highly sensitive equipment to look specifically for that specific kind of growth even in symptomless patients – picks up more cancers and far in advance of them generating symptoms in the patient. When you screen an 18-year-old woman for thyroid cancer, you are looking for not only the thyroid cancer that that appear this year, but the cancer that may become obvious next year, or when she’s 21, 22, 23 etc.

      In effect, a screening programme picks up many years’ worth of cancers in one sweep, and is far less likely to miss any cancers, fail to register those cancers or misdiagnose those cancers as not being thyroid cancer. This is the “screening effect” and it is well-known in research. If you look aggressively for a condition, in the initial stages at least, you will find far more cases than one might naively expect.

      For example, if we assume for simplicity that thyroid cancers may be latent (but detectable by sensitive screening) for ten years, a screening programme wouldn’t simply expect to find 0.7 cancers in a cohort of 100,000 18 year old women. We’d expect to find ten more years’ worth, with the chance of having cancer increasing every year (using age group averages for simplicity): 0.7 the next year as well, 3.1 every year for five years after that (moving into a more susceptible age group), and 4.9 every year for three years after that. Which would be 31.6 cases picked up from screening 100,000 18 year old women – not 0.7. Actually, even more than that as we would less likely miss cases, and we would pick up tumours that would either not develop far enough to be clinical, or that would have gone into spontaneous remission.

      How long is the latency for thyroid cancer? Your own source of Wierska gives it as between 3 and 30 years. If we assume that all cancers up to those 15 years away from presenting clinically are detectable, I believe we’d get (based on a simple spreadsheet), for this population, about 60 cancers picked up in a screening programme.

      • AudioTactics

        It would be one thing if the medical community agreed with the official numbers but the problem is there are many doctors who are saying that they are being told not to diagnose any cancers or radiation related symptoms as being a result of the nuclear accident even if that’s what they believe. Many are saying that the numbers aren’t adding up and that the authorities are not being truthful about the harmful effects of the radiation released by the triple meltdowns. Given that you have worked or still work in the nuclear industry, I can understand why you would like to play down the harmful effects of Fukushima but between you and me I don’t think you are being totally honest here and your bias is clearly showing. I would agree that the screening effect may be real for older adults but not necessarily for children or young adults and since the Japanese authorities have told their medical staff not to give any diagnoses that are related to the radiation exposure caused by Fukushima there is obviously more going on here than meets the eye. Also, in the Chernobyl experience cancers appeared within 1-2 years of the event. Furthermore, much of Japan was hit by the radiation from Fukushima so I’m not really sure how surrounding areas could effectively be considered a control group.

      • Sam Gilman

        Hi AudioTactics

        Given that you have worked or still work in the nuclear industry

        No, that’s just false. You’ve made that up about me (Why??). I have never had, and doubtless never will have, any connection with the nuclear industry. I have no financial or other such interest in the energy sector at all. Like you, I’m not even a scientist. That’s pretty much my shtick here: How does a non-scientist judge what information to trust?

        You present yourself here as being swamped by information, and confused by all the mixed messages. You don’t appear to have a way of navigating through this information; it all seems equally valid to you. However, it doesn’t have to be like that, Audio. If you stick to qualified experts who have a track record of well-received peer-reviewed research, the picture becomes a lot clearer. There are a lot of ideologues and vested interests trying to muddy the waters – that’s why you need to stick with scientists.

        You say of the thyroid numbers:

        It would be one thing if the medical community agreed with the official numbers but the problem is there are many doctors who are saying that they are being told not to diagnose any cancers or radiation related symptoms as being a result of the nuclear accident even if that’s what they believe.

        You’ve got two things confused there: one is the opinion – divided or otherwise – of experts in thyroid screening and radiological health on the thyroid figures. Another is whether or not local doctors – separate from the screening programme – are being told not to diagnose other cancers. Let’s look at the first, and take the opportunity to show how we sniff out someone whose expertise is not what it seems.

        The experts all pretty much do agree that there is not going to be a massive increase in thyroid disease, and that these numbers are the result of the screening effect. In this excellent article, the journalist details the opinions of
        – the emeritus professor of pathology at Cambridge University
        – the professor of molecular pathology at Imperial College and head of the Chernobyl Tissue Bank
        – the director general of the state research centre at the Federal Medical Biological Agency in Moscow

        All of these people have excellent research records in the area. Their views are supported by the dozens of experts contributing to the World Health Organisation reports and the UNSCEAR reports, all of whose names I can find out and whose backgrounds I can check. Against these views, the journalist has a man called Paul Dorfman, or “Dr Paul Dorfman of the Energy Institute at University College, London”. This sounds grand. So, first: check qualifications: is he qualified in radiological health? No. Does he do research into population health? No. Does he actually have any scientific qualifications? No. So what’s his specialism? If you do a bit of googling, it turns out he’s an honorary research associate, not a proper employee, and he’s a policy analyst, not a scientist, and a close associate of known pseudo-scientist Chris Busby to boot. His position is funded by an outside non-science social charity, and he’s founder of the “Nuclear Consulting Group” claimed by its funders to being a “more balanced and informed debate about the merits of new nuclear reactors for electricity generation in the UK”, but which is actually an out-and-out anti-nuclear campaign group. Look at their long list of associates. How many actual scientists are there (let alone health specialists)? I make it one – a retired physicist who now runs a solar power company (so has a vested interest).

        None of this means that Dorfman’s wrong. It just means I’m not going to bother with his opinion as his work has not been subject to appropriate scientific scrutiny, he’s not qualified anyway, and he is professionally invested in one side of the argument. I see no reason to include his opinion in my calculus of what health risks are, and some reason to exclude it. Simple as that.

        If you do this – stick to people qualified in the area who are well-respected by their scientific peers – the confusion becomes a lot less. Mainstream scientists are not a small coterie of individuals, but thousands of people working in universities and research centres around the world, but the good news is, they’re working on the same reality. In keeping yourself strict with your sourcing, you may be astounded to discover on the other hand that most of the talking heads on Fukushima are not the experts at all that you thought. They’re people who specialise in Making Things Up, including people who earn a living from Making Things Up. Seriously, have a go at checking their qualifications and whether they publish in scientific journals.

        So when you say:

        I can understand why you would like to play down the harmful effects of Fukushima but between you and me I don’t think you are being totally honest here and your bias is clearly showing

        You’ve completely misunderstood my position. I am not “playing down” anything. I am reporting what mainstream scientists are saying. That’s where the centre ground should lie, shouldn’t it, with what our best experts say? Can you seriously disagree with that?

        As for the second claim – that doctors are being told not to diagnose any cancers or radiation related symptoms, I have a simple question: do you have a source for this extraordinary claim? It sounds like BS to me, for many reasons. I’m not even sure how it would work, given how health care is organised here.

        Many are saying that the numbers aren’t adding up and that the authorities are not being truthful about the harmful effects of the radiation released by the triple meltdowns

        Who is saying this, are they someone I can trust with the numbers, and what evidence do they have? Whenever someone says this kind of thing, I ask for sources. (Typically, the person either disappears or starts abusing me – simply because I asked for evidence.)

        I would agree that the screening effect may be real for older adults but not necessarily for children or young adults

        In that case, I’m afraid you’ve quite failed to understand the screening effect; it has nothing to do with age. It’s really important that you don’t try to bluster your way through things you don’t understand. All that means is that you’re trying to defend your biases.

        It’s like this: from when a cancer initially forms to when it is picked up by a doctor (because the patient goes to the doctor with symptoms), it can be a couple of decades. This is called the latency period. You can google what the latency period is for various cancers – and they can be very long. Thyroid cancer can be up to thirty years. Someone who turns up at a hospital with a large tumour in their thyroid aged 30 may have had that cancer in them from when they were ten or fifteen years old. With the sensitive screening process, we’re catching that kind of cancer 20 or 15 years earlier than we would have done. That’s how we get so many cancers picked up at the beginning of the programme. It’s actually not a difficult idea to grasp. I wonder if your own biases are blocking you from understanding.

        since the Japanese authorities have told their medical staff not to give any diagnoses that are related to the radiation exposure caused by Fukushima

        Again, you need a source for this – and a mechanism, and a theory as to how the Japanese government intends to keep such a cover-up going for more than a couple of years, and an explanation for how this is being kept secret across the whole of Japan. It really sounds like BS once you think it through. After all, the thyroid cancers you think are part of an upsurge in cancers were themselves detected by Japanese medical research staff.

        Also, in the Chernobyl experience cancers appeared within 1-2 years of the event

        No. Thyroid cancers started appearing 4 years after. Please try to get your facts straight.

        Furthermore, much of Japan was hit by the radiation from Fukushima so I’m not really sure how surrounding areas could effectively be considered a control group.

        No. That’s simply not true. We have NGOs measuring radiation (have a look at Safecast) as well as the government doing it. We know what areas were affected by Fukushima radiation, and it does not include those areas in the comparison studies.

        Audio, please, reveal what your source is for all this nonsense and I can help show you why you shouldn’t trust it. You live in on the other side of the world to Japan; it may be easy for you to believe all kinds of wild things about faraway places full of strange people. Be aware of this.