The Japan Medical Association has blasted a government cancer study on people in Hiroshima Prefecture, saying important information is being withheld and the subjects’ rights are being violated.
The JMA submitted a letter of protest to the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry on Wednesday alleging the institutions conducting the survey failed to tell subjects their gene data would be analyzed and did not provide proper measures to protect their personal information.
A powerful medical lobby, the JMA has 156,000 members and represents about 60 percent of all physicians in Japan.
The cancer epidemiology study is being conducted by an Aichi prefectural cancer center and the Radiation Effects Research Foundation with the cooperation of the town of Kumano, Hiroshima Prefecture, where the subjects live.
Some 130 people appointed by the town have been visiting local families to provide residents with information on the tests as well as distributing and collecting survey forms on living habits and relatives’ health. They asked for residents to cooperate in blood tests that will start in August, the JMA said.
Because many of those distributing the information are community leaders, the residents could feel pressured to comply, according to the JMA, which also expressed fear about leaks of personal data.
The association urged the ministry to change the study methods, saying, “Many residents of the town complained about vicious information manipulation, because the appointees are distributing and collecting the survey questionnaires without providing important information,” including that their genetic makeup would be analyzed and shared with researchers.
The institutions plan to collect blood samples from volunteers among 14,000 residents over 40 years old to study genes and living habits in an attempt to come up with measures to prevent cancer.
They hope to collect blood samples from 100,000 people nationwide in the future.
The study is one of the so-called millennium projects promoted by the late Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi that are aimed at generating new industries in Japan and strengthening the nation’s industrial competitiveness.