An ongoing study being led by researchers from the Fukushima Medical University on the impact of nuclear radiation from the disaster-stricken atomic power plant on Fukushima residents has found a slight increase in thyroid cancer cases in the area’s younger population. Data shows 12 minors with confirmed thyroid cancer diagnoses, up from a total three in a report in February, with 15 others suspected to have cancer, up from seven from that same report earlier this year. The numbers and data were taken from about 174,000 people aged 18 or younger whose initial thyroid screening results were positive.
The researchers were quick to say that so far they do not believe the increase is related to the nuclear crisis. Patterns from the 1986 Chernobyl disaster point to thyroid cancer cases in children being found four to five years later. The prefecture’s thyroid screenings are targeted to around 360,000 people who were 18 or younger when the March 2011 nuclear disaster struck. In 2011, after confirming test results from about 40,000 minors, seven were diagnosed with thyroid cancer. In fiscal 2012, of about 134,000 minors, five were confirmed with thyroid cancer.
In the referenced Chernobyl disaster, thyroid cancer was reported in more than 6,000 children, with the U.N. Scientific Committee attributing the huge number of cases to consumption of contaminated milk. Last month, a team of U.N. scientists said that the radiation levels of Fukushima residents was much lower than Chernobyl, and that cancer cases are not expected increase in the future. But questions will still be asked of the current data, as the normal trends show that of those aged 10 to 14 in Japan, thyroid cancer strikes only about one to two persons in a million. “Fukushima’s survey examines people who have no symptoms across the board and it is hard to evaluate it because there are no comparable data,” said an official from Japan’s Environment Ministry. “We need to take a careful look at it.”