Fukushima disaster panel so far reports three young people have thyroid cancer


A Fukushima Prefectural Government panel said Wednesday that two people who were 18 or younger when the triple-meltdown crisis started at the Fukushima No. 1 atomic complex in March 2011 have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer, bringing the total cases to three.

Reporting at a meeting on the health impact from the catastrophe, professor Shinichi Suzuki of Fukushima Medical University said it is too early to link the cases to the nuclear disaster, because it took at least four to five years for thyroid cancer to be detected after the Chernobyl meltdown calamity that started in 1986.

The three people have been doing well since undergoing surgery, according to Suzuki.

Radioactive iodine released in fallout tends to accumulate in thyroid glands, particularly in young people. In the Chernobyl disaster, a noticeable increase in thyroid cancer cases was detected among children in the affected area.

Local authorities in Fukushima Prefecture are examining the thyroid glands of those who were under 18, who numbered around 360,000, at the time the nuclear crisis started to check if they have been affected by the radiation.

Of the 360,000, around 38,000 were checked in fiscal 2011, and 10, including the three thyroid cancer cases, are believed to be suffering some form of cancer. The average age of the 10 is around 15, and seven are female.

The remaining seven are undergoing medical examinations at the university.

  • Lilly Munster

    The notion the health survey keeps pushing that there were no cancers right after Chernobyl isn’t exactly accurate. Testing after Chernobyl did not begin until 4 years later. When testing began they found cancers right away. An absence of testing is not the same as a latency period. The health survey is using this to be a bit deceptive in how they present findings. I do wish the media would dig deeper on this.

  • Masa Chekov

    I am curious – what is the expected rate of occurrence of thyroid cancer in this age group?

    I wonder because I had a family member die from the disease as a child with no exposure to a nuclear accident. It does happen to young people naturally, unfortunately.

    • Roy Warner

      According to the physician in charge of this study, Suzuki Shinichi, the normal incidence of thyroid cancer in children is 1 in 1,000,000. http://headlines.yahoo.co.jp/hl?a=20130213-00000080-mai-soci

      The local authorities in Fukushima were taking measurements of radioactive iodine dispersal after the reactor accidents but Japan’s Education Ministry ordered them to cease doing so. This inexplicable act makes it impossible to know how much exposure the children received.

      • Ken Yasumoto-Nicolson

        I think it would also be useful to point out that in the same article, Mr Suzuki also says “「元々あったものを発見した可能性が高い。(原発事故との因果関係は)考えにくい” , “It’s highly likely that we discovered an already existing cancer. It’s difficult to image that there is a relationship between the cancer and the nuclear accident.”

        (I also think the “one in a million” comment is a bit rash for a medical professional as it doesn’t seem to be rooted in reality, especially given that he sees no linkage with Fukushima Daiichi”)

  • Bertrand Roehner

    The article says:

    “In the Chernobyl disaster, a NOTICEABLE increase
    in thyroid cancer
    cases was detected among children in the affected area”.

    But what is meant by a “noticeable increase”. Is it

    1%, 5%, 10% or more and what was the evolution

    in the course of time?

  • Bertrand Roehner

    An answer to the legitimate question asked by one reader about the “normal”
    incidence rate can be found on the following webpage:

    These statistics are for the UK but they give an order of magnitude which
    may also apply to Japan (the UK is a medium-incidence country in terms
    of thyroid cancer).

    In the 3 years 2006-2008, for persons between 0 and 19 years there were on
    average 44 new cases of thyroid cancer every year in the UK.

    This corresponds
    to a rate of 2.3 per 100,000 persons in this age group.

    Thus, in Fukushima prefecture
    for the 360,000 persons between age 0 and 18 one would expect:
    2.3×3.6=8.3 new cases every year.
    According to these data,

    the 3 cases that appeared in 2011 are well within the limits
    of what would be expected without radiation effect.
    In fact, they are even surprisingly low.

    Of course, one would also be interested in the data for 2012.

  • Bertrand Roehner

    Addendum to my previous message of a few minutes ago

    Sorry, in my previous message

    I forgot that so far only 1 in 10 people were tested (38,000 in a population of
    360,000) so the expected number would rather be:
    2.3×0.38=0.87 which is 3 times lower than the 3 cases found in 2011.

    However, in order to draw a

    meaningful conclusion, one would need to know the standard
    deviation of the number of new cases in previous years in
    Fukushima prefecture.

    For such small numbers as 3 cases
    one would expect large fluctuations which means that it is
    still too early to draw any clear conclusion.

  • Lilly Munster

    An older US study found rates of thyroid nodules (not cancers) to be around 1%. This is similar to the number of nodules found in the 2001 Nagasaki control group in a published study that also showed around 1% rate of nodules in children. Currently the nodule rate in Fukushima children is around 44%. The cancer rates are a bit harder to pin down for a post disaster situation due to Chernobyl’s data being late and also varies widely depending on who did the research. Some of it is shoddy and biased. There are also questions being raised about the estimation methodology being used by the health survey to estimate exposure doses. It may be impossible to give an accurate dose estimate for iodine exposure based on there being too many factors involved to do this and a lack of enough early data on the iodine levels in any given area.

    • The figure for “children with cysts or nodules” was 36% (35.8% to be accurate), not 44%. Further, the US and Nagasaki 1% figure was for those with nodules greater than 5mm in size. Nodules smaller than 5mm were not even counted in the statistics. Only 0.5% of the 38,000 Fukushima children tested had nodules larger than 5mm or cysts greater than 20mm – the other 98.6% of those found to have nodules and cysts were below the 5mm nodule/20mm cyst line.

      Since we do not know the absolute incidence of nodules and cysts in the US and Nagasaki groups, we cannot say whether the Fukushima 35.8% figure deviates from the normal range for healthy children. What would be needed is a set of results from children elsewhere in Japan, far removed from Fukushima, where all detected nodules and cysts regardless of size are counted to establish a baseline for comparison.Barring that, all we can compare in an “apples to apples” fashion would be the percentage with nodules larger than 5mm, and on that score Fukushima children are perfectly normal and suffering no ill effects.

      • KetsuroOu

        Yes, but that would make sense.

  • johnny cassidy

    I wonder how the Poynter Institute’s News Trust site would rate this article and the data it presents? They’ve rated similar JT articles in the past.

  • ernie_elliott2000@yahoo.co.uk

    Ive read all the comments and ……Yeah, yeah ,yeah lets crunch figures all day shall we !! or better still lets just all pretend that there wasnt even a Nuclear accident in Fukushima and every thing is warm,fluffy and pink Just like the Japanese government wants us to believe.!!!