Experts differ over nuclear accident's effect on cancer rate in children

December 22, 2013

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

Experts were divided over whether radiation from the Fukushima nuclear accident affected the thyroid cancer rate among children in Fukushima Prefecture, in which 59 young people have been diagnosed with or suspected of contracting the disease.

Most of the experts dismissed the possibility that effects from radiation from the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant could appear so soon in children.

"The rate at which children in Fukushima Prefecture have developed thyroid cancer can be called frequent because it is several times to several tens of times higher," said Toshihide Tsuda, a professor of epidemiology at Okayama University, at the meeting on Dec. 21 conducted by the Environment Ministry and Fukushima prefectural government at which experts offered their opinions.

Tsuda used the results of cancer registration statistics kept in Japan to support his theory. Those statistics showed that between 1975 and 2008, an estimated annual average of between five to 11 people in their late teens to early 20s developed thyroid cancer for every 1 million people.

"Because there is the possibility that the number of cases could increase in the future, there is a need to implement measures now," he said.

However, Tetsuya Ohira, a professor of epidemiology at Fukushima Medical University, criticized Tsuda's conclusion saying it was not appropriate in scientific terms to compare the results of the testing in Fukushima with cancer registry statistics.

Fukushima prefectural government officials plan to look further into the relationship between radiation exposure and thyroid cancer after analyzing future test results.

Thyroid cancer screening is being conducted on young people in Fukushima Prefecture who were 18 or younger at the time of the nuclear accident, which was triggered by the March 11, 2011, Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

As of Sept. 30, 2013, 59 out of about 239,000 tested had been diagnosed with or are suspected of having thyroid cancer. One was diagnosed with a benign tumor.

Shinichi Suzuki, a Fukushima Medical University professor involved in the tests, said there was no link between the effects of radiation exposure and the cases of diagnosed or suspected thyroid cancer.

(This article was written by Teruhiko Nose and Yuri Oiwa.)

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
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A child has her thyroid gland checked with an ultrasonic sensor at Tokatsu Hospital in Nagareyama, Chiba Prefecture, in November. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

A child has her thyroid gland checked with an ultrasonic sensor at Tokatsu Hospital in Nagareyama, Chiba Prefecture, in November. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

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  • A child has her thyroid gland checked with an ultrasonic sensor at Tokatsu Hospital in Nagareyama, Chiba Prefecture, in November. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

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