Study shows risk of cancer appears to last for entire lifetime after exposure to radiation

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After the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the health effects of ionized radiation have become a hot topic around the globe.  A new study showing that survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombings have continued to show a higher-than-normal risk of thyroid cancer, over half a century after their initial exposures.

The researchers calculated that 36 percent of the 191 thyroid cancers that eventually developed in people who were kids or teens at the time of the attacks were likely due to radiation exposure.

“Thyroid cancer is one of the most radiosensitive cancers,” said Dr. Kiyohiko Mabuchi of the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, who worked on the new study.

Mabuchi warns that people should not ignore the possible long-term effects of radiation exposure, especially for kids.  “Younger (thyroid) tissue may be more sensitive to radiation – that’s one of the hypotheses.”

Exposure to radiation is a proven risk factor for thyroid cancer. Several studies have pointed to an increased risk of thyroid cancer in children because of radioactive fallout from nuclear weapons or nuclear power plant accidents.

Before the 1960s, children were sometimes treated with low doses of radiation for menial treatments that it never should have been, like acne, fungus infections of the scalp (ringworm), an enlarged thymus gland, or enlarged tonsils or adenoids. Years later, the people who had these treatments were found to have a higher risk of thyroid cancer.

Though the risk from each individual scan may seem minute, it’s not negligible – especially for scans to the head and neck.

“Most people, even scientists, have a misconception that the risk is only a few years and then it goes away,” Mabuchi added.

The American Cancer Society estimates that about 56,000 Americans will be diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2012, and close to 2,000 will die of the disease.    If incidence of the disease continues to rise at the present rate, thyroid cancer could become one of the top three cancers in the country.

Radiation researcher John Boice from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, said the new study confirms findings from the United States that people remain at higher risk of thyroid cancer for decades after they’re exposed to radiation.

“The risk appears to last pretty much your entire life,” he told Reuters Health.

Source: International Journal of Cancer

Source: Yahoo News



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