Thyroid cancer plagues Fukushima evacuees, but officials deny radiation to blame — Sputnik

” Seven more young Fukushima Prefecture residents have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer, according to a prefectural government statement on Monday. All of the patients were 18 or younger at the time of the 2011 nuclear reactor meltdown.

This bumps the number of Fukushima residents diagnosed with thyroid cancer up to 152. Although many times higher than the national average, the thyroid cancer rates are “unlikely” to have been increased by the reactor accident, according to vice chair of Fukushima’s medical association Hokuto Hoshi.

“Those thyroid cases have been found because we conducted the survey, not because of the radiation,” concurred Akira Ohtsuru, a radiologist who examined many of the patients. “The survey has caused over-diagnosis.”

One of those suspected of having cancer is a 4-year-old boy who hadn’t even been conceived yet when his parents fled Fukushima.

The prefectural government has been conducting thyroid checkups on evacuees every year since 2013.  The number of cases continuously rises every time they do so: five additional cases in 2014 and two additional ones in May 2015. This means more and more evacuees are metastasizing the illness.

Fukushima University researchers have also found that evacuees have markedly higher rates of diabetes, liver and heart disease and obesity than the national average.

A May 2017 study from the Norwegian Institute for Air Research found that the Fukushima nuclear disaster had spread additional radiation across the entire planet, with the same amount of radiation as a single x-ray hitting the average person.

That same month, Penn State Medical Center published a study linking the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster of 1979 to higher rates of thyroid cancer near the Pennsylvania reactor. ”

by Sputnik

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Woman breaks silence among Fukushima thyroid cancer patients — The Seattle Times

” KORIYAMA, Japan (AP) — She’s 21, has thyroid cancer, and wants people in her prefecture in northeastern Japan to get screened for it. That statement might not seem provocative, but her prefecture is Fukushima, and of the 173 young people with confirmed or suspected cases since the 2011 nuclear meltdowns there, she is the first to speak out.

That near-silence highlights the fear Fukushima thyroid-cancer patients have about being the “nail that sticks out,” and thus gets hammered.

The thyroid-cancer rate in the northern Japanese prefecture is many times higher than what is generally found, particularly among children, but the Japanese government says more cases are popping up because of rigorous screening, not the radiation that spewed from Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant.

To be seen as challenging that view carries consequences in this rigidly harmony-oriented society. Even just having cancer that might be related to radiation carries a stigma in the only country to be hit with atomic bombs.

“There aren’t many people like me who will openly speak out,” said the young woman, who requested anonymity because of fears about harassment. “That’s why I’m speaking out so others can feel the same. I can speak out because I’m the kind of person who believes things will be OK.”

She has a quick disarming smile and silky black hair. She wears flip-flops. She speaks passionately about her new job as a nursery school teacher. But she also has deep fears: Will she be able to get married? Will her children be healthy?

She suffers from the only disease that the medical community, including the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, has acknowledged is clearly related to the radioactive iodine that spewed into the surrounding areas after the only nuclear disaster worse than Fukushima’s, the 1986 explosion and fire at Chernobyl, Ukraine.

Though international reviews of Fukushima have predicted that cancer rates will not rise as a result of the meltdowns there, some researchers believe the prefecture’s high thyroid-cancer rate is related to the accident.

The government has ordered medical testing of the 380,000 people who were 18 years or under and in Fukushima prefecture at the time of the March 2011 tsunami and quake that sank three reactors into meltdowns. About 38 percent have yet to be screened, and the number is a whopping 75 percent for those who are now between the ages of 18 and 21.

The young woman said she came forward because she wants to help other patients, especially children, who may be afraid and confused. She doesn’t know whether her sickness was caused by the nuclear accident, but plans to get checked for other possible sicknesses, such as uterine cancer, just to be safe.

“I want everyone, all the children, to go to the hospital and get screened. They think it’s too much trouble, and there are no risks, and they don’t go,” the woman said in a recent interview in Fukushima. “My cancer was detected early, and I learned that was important.”

Thyroid cancer is among the most curable cancers, though some patients need medication for the rest of their lives, and all need regular checkups.

The young woman had one cancerous thyroid removed, and does not need medication except for painkillers. But she has become prone to hormonal imbalance and gets tired more easily. She used to be a star athlete, and snowboarding remains a hobby.

A barely discernible tiny scar is on her neck, like a pale kiss mark or scratch. She was hospitalized for nearly two weeks, but she was itching to get out. It really hurt then, but there is no pain now, she said with a smile.

“My ability to bounce right back is my trademark,” she said. “I’m always able to keep going.”

She was mainly worried about her parents, especially her mother, who cried when she found out her daughter had cancer. Her two older siblings also were screened but were fine.

Many Japanese have deep fears about genetic abnormalities caused by radiation. Many, especially older people, assume all cancers are fatal, and even the young woman did herself until her doctors explained her sickness to her.

The young woman said her former boyfriend’s family had expressed reservations about their relationship because of her sickness. She has a new boyfriend now, a member of Japan’s military, and he understands about her sickness, she said happily.

A support group for thyroid cancer patients was set up earlier this year. The group, which includes lawyers and medical doctors, has refused all media requests for interviews with the handful of families that have joined, saying that kind of attention may be dangerous.

When the group held a news conference in Tokyo in March, it connected by live video feed with two fathers with children with thyroid cancer, but their faces were not shown, to disguise their identities. They criticized the treatment their children received and said they’re not certain the government is right in saying the cancer and the nuclear meltdowns are unrelated.

Hiroyuki Kawai, a lawyer who also advises the group, believes patients should file Japan’s equivalent of a class-action lawsuit, demanding compensation, but he acknowledged more time will be needed for any legal action.

“The patients are divided. They need to unite, and they need to talk with each other,” he told AP in a recent interview.

The committee of doctors and other experts carrying out the screening of youngsters in Fukushima for thyroid cancer periodically update the numbers of cases found, and they have been steadily climbing.

In a news conference this week, they stuck to the view the cases weren’t related to radiation. Most disturbing was a cancer found in a child who was just 5 years old in 2011, the youngest case found so far. But the experts brushed it off, saying one wasn’t a significant number.

“It is hard to think there is any relationship,” with radiation, said Hokuto Hoshi, a medical doctor who heads the committee.

Shinsyuu Hida, a photographer from Fukushima and an adviser to the patients’ group, said fears are great not only about speaking out but also about cancer and radiation.

He said that when a little girl who lives in Fukushima once asked him if she would ever be able to get married, because of the stigma attached to radiation, he was lost for an answer and wept afterward.

“They feel alone. They can’t even tell their relatives,” Hida said of the patients. “They feel they can’t tell anyone. They felt they were not allowed to ask questions.”

The woman who spoke to AP also expressed her views on video for a film in the works by independent American filmmaker Ian Thomas Ash.

She counts herself lucky. About 18,000 people were killed in the tsunami, and many more lost their homes to the natural disaster and the subsequent nuclear accident, but her family’s home was unscathed.

When asked how she feels about nuclear power, she replied quietly that Japan doesn’t need nuclear plants. Without them, she added, maybe she would not have gotten sick. ”

by Yuri Kageyama, AP

source, including a interview with the young woman in this article, which is split into four 2 to 4-minute segments. I recommend watching the interview.

Sixteen children confirmed to have thyroid cancer in second Fukushima survey — Japan Today

” FUKUSHIMA — In a survey that began in April 2014 to check the impact of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis, 16 children have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer and 35 are suspected of having the disease, a prefectural government panel said Monday.

Most of them were thought to be problem free when their thyroid glands were checked during the first round of the survey conducted over a three-year period through March 2014.

It covered about 300,000 children who were under the age 18 and living in the northeastern Japan prefecture when the nuclear plant disaster occurred in March 2011, in the wake of a huge earthquake and subsequent tsunami.

The number of children diagnosed with thyroid cancer in the second round was up from 15, and the number of suspected cases up from 24, as reported at the previous panel meeting in November.

Hokuto Hoshi, head of the panel and a senior member of the Fukushima Medical Association, maintained his earlier view of the correlation between the cancer figures and radiation, saying based on expertise acquired so far, it is “unlikely” that the disease was caused by radiation exposure.

When the results of the first and the ongoing second round of the heath survey are combined, the number of children diagnosed with thyroid cancer totals 116 and 50 are suspected of having it.

According to the Fukushima Medical University and other entities involved in the health checks, the 51 children in the second round of the survey either confirmed or suspected to have thyroid cancer were age 6 to 18 at the time of the triple reactor meltdown and the sizes of their tumors ranged from 5.3 millimeters to 30.1 mm.

The examiners were able to estimate how much external exposure 29 of those children had over the four months immediately after the catastrophe, with the maximum being 2.1 millisieverts. Ten children were exposed to less than 1 millisievert. ”

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Fukushima confirms 11 new thyroid cancer cases among young people — The Asahi Shimbun

” Eleven people in Fukushima Prefecture aged 18 or younger at the time of the 2011 triple meltdown were recently diagnosed with thyroid cancer, bringing the number of confirmed cases to 115 since the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Of the 11 new patients diagnosed, who were diagnosed between July and September, two were already suspected of having the disease in the first round of checks that concluded at the end of March last year, the prefectural government announced Nov. 30.

The other nine were identified as suspected cases in the second round of checks, which began in April 2014.

Their diagnoses were established during surgery where thyroid cancer was confirmed.

The Fukushima prefectural government has been conducting health checks on about 380,000 residents who were 18 or younger at the time of the nuclear disaster. The screening was conducted to detect thyroid cancer since young people are susceptible to the disease.

The number of patients with suspected or confirmed cases totaled 114 in the first round of screening, and 39 in the second round, for a total of 153.

Of the 39 suspected or confirmed cases that were reported during the second round, two patients were found to have a tubercle growth during the first round of screening. Doctors believe the lumps then become cancerous.

Of the 39, 19 were cleared during the first round of screening, but apparently developed cancer afterward.

Hokuto Hoshi, who chairs a panel with the prefectural survey, downplayed the possibility that fallout from the Fukushima disaster is the culprit behind the incidences of thyroid cancer among young people.

“As far as our data shows, the estimated internal doses of radiation of Fukushima residents for thyroid glands are lower than those of residents around the Chernobyl nuclear plant,” Hoshi said. “It is unlikely that radiation is responsible for the recently reported thyroid cancer cases, given that there are no reports of cancer among infants, who are particularly susceptible to radiation.”

The prefecture’s screening for thyroid cancer began in autumn 2011 based on findings that thyroid cancer cases increased among children in the aftermath of the 1986 Chernobyl accident in what is now Ukraine. ”

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Nuclear Watch: Fukushima new method for contaminated water failing and other updates — NHK World

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Thyroid cancer diagnosed in 104 young people in Fukushima — The Asahi Shimbun

” The number of young people in Fukushima Prefecture who have been diagnosed with definitive or suspected thyroid gland cancer, a disease often caused by radiation exposure, now totals 104, according to prefectural officials.

The 104 are among 300,000 young people who were aged 18 or under at the time of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster and whose results of thyroid gland tests have been made available as of June 30. They were eligible for the tests administered by the prefectural government.

Of these 104, including 68 women, the number of definitive cases is 57, and one has been diagnosed with a benign tumor. The size of the tumors varies from 5 to 41 millimeters and averages 14 mm.

The average age of those diagnosed was 14.8 when the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami triggered the meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in March 2011.

However, government officials in Fukushima say they do not believe the cases of thyroid gland cancer diagnosed or suspected in the 104 young people are linked to the 2011 nuclear accident.

The figure can be extrapolated for comparison purposes to an average of more than 30 people per population of 100,000 having definitive or suspected thyroid gland cancer.

The figure is much higher than, for example, the development rate of thyroid cancer of 1.7 people per 100,000 among late teens based on the cancer patients’ registration in Miyagi Prefecture.

But experts say the figures cannot be compared because the test in Fukushima Prefecture covers a large number of people who have no symptoms.

Experts are divided over whether the cases of thyroid gland cancer diagnosed or suspected in the 104 young people should be linked to the 2011 nuclear accident.

In connection with the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, the number of young people diagnosed with thyroid cancer rose only after four years. The cancer is also known to develop slowly.

But some researchers say that the occurrence of thyroid gland cancer is likely to be increased by the Fukushima nuclear accident.

“Many people are being diagnosed with cancer at this time, thanks to the high-precision tests,” said Yoshio Hosoi, professor of radiation biology at Tohoku University. “We must continue closely examining the people’s health in order to determine the impact of radiation exposure on causing thyroid tumors.”

By regions, 27.7 people per 100,000 people have been diagnosed with definitive or suspected thyroid cancer in the Aizu region, located 80 kilometers or farther from the crippled nuclear plant. The number could increase after thorough examinations are completed for people in the region

Around 35 people per 100,000 have been diagnosed with definitive or suspected cancer in the Nakadori region, which includes Fukushima city and several municipalities designated as mandatory evacuation zones, and the coastal Hamadori region.

Hokuto Hoshi, who chairs a panel that discusses matters related to the prefectural survey on the health impact from radiation on Fukushima’s residents, said the panel’s subcommittee will soon analyze the test results to determine the impact of the accident on the thyroid tumor rate.

“In order to scientifically compare the results of the development rates of each region, we must take into account age and other characteristics (of the 104 people),” he said.

The prefecture also plans to continue medical checkups on residents in the prefecture and use the test results as a basis for comparison in the future, prefectural officials said. ”

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