The incidence of thyroid cancer was 45 times greater among those who received the highest radiation dose as compared to those in the lowest-dose group, according to a team of American and Russian researchers led by Scott Davis, Ph.D., and colleagues at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. They report their findings in the September issue of Radiation Research.
"This is the first study of its kind to establish a dose-response relationship between radiation dose from Chernobyl and thyroid cancer," said Davis, referring to the observation that as radiation doses increase, so does the risk of thyroid cancer. "We found a significant increased risk of thyroid cancer among people exposed as children to radiation from Chernobyl, and that the risk increased as a function of radiation dose."
Having such information in hand, Davis said, may help officials better predict what long-term health effects to expect in the event of a similar nuclear accident or terrorist attack.
"Another potential benefit of the findings is that it allows officials to more accurately understand and document the magnitude of the thyroid-cancer burden that has resulted from Chernobyl. This information will be important in designing and maintaining programs targeted toward the victims of the disaster."
While about 30 people were killed immediately from the blast, which remains the worst accident of its kind in history, an estimated 5 million people were exposed to the resulting radiation.
"Prior to Chernobyl, thyroid cancer in children was practically nonexistent. Today we see dozens and dozens of cases a year in the regions contaminated by the disaster, and the incidence continues to rise," Davis said. "This provides some evidence that there's
Contact: Kristen Lidke Woodward
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center