75 people living in Fuskuhima Prefecture have now been diagnosed with either definitive or suspected thyroid gland cancer. This type of cancer is oftentimes associated with exposure to radiation, an example of which is the nuclear plant incident of Fukushima in 2011.
The Fukushima prefectural government has made thyroid cancer testing compulsory for individuals aged 18 years old and under during the nuclear accident. Since the first round of thyroid glands tests in November, an additional 28,000 people underwent the examination. The 75 people identified are among the 240,000 whose results are made available to date. Results show an increase of 16 people suspected with cancer, 7 of which are definitive. Despite the results, medical and government officials from the prefecture are still unconvinced that the 75 cases are a direct result of the 2011 accident.
Panel chairman Hokuto Hoshi, of a group that deliberates on the health impacts of radiation on Fukushima residents, noted that thyroid gland cancer in Chernobyl only affected nearby locals four to five years after the 1986 nuclear accident. Fukushima Medical University doctors plan to study genes from cancerous thyroid glands surgically removed from children to know the history and origin of their cancer. Thyroid gland surgery professor Shinichi Suzuki hopes “to look for unknown types of gene mutations, other than those known to be associated with the generation of thyroid gland cancer, to study if they could serve as markers for determining if the cancers were induced by radiation.”
Suzuki also noted that confirming if exposure to radiation actually increases one’s potential to develop thyroid cancer would take a long time before it can be established. Currently, there is no available method to determine if thyroid cancer came from radiation exposure or somewhere else.
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