The thyroid cancer danger lasts 50 years after radiation exposure
Thyroid cancer risk persists decades after radiation By Genevra Pittman NEW YORK Aug 17, (Reuters) – People who survived the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as children continued to have a higher-than-normal risk of thyroid cancer more than 50 years after radiation exposure, according to a new study.
The thyroid gland, located at the front of the neck, releases hormones that help regulate the body’s metabolism. The gland works particularly hard during times of fast growth and development in kids and teens. Previous studies have shown thyroid cells are particularly vulnerable to ionizing radiation – the kind produced by the Chernobyl nuclear
meltdown or the atomic bombings of Japan, for example.
“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….
By tracking new cancer diagnoses in people who were in Japan during
the bombings in 1945, and those who were not, Mabuchi and his
colleagues found little evidence that adults exposed to the radiation
were more likely to develop thyroid cancer later on.
But for kids it was a different story. 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……
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.
That’s because thyroid cells are permanently damaged by radiation, he
explained – unless the radiation dose is so high that they’re killed
“Most people, even scientists, have a misconception that the risk is
only a few years and then it goes away,” Mabuchi added.
On the other hand, the risk of leukemia – another cancer tied to
radiation exposure – is known to peak a few years after the exposure
and then return to normal, he said…. Mabuchi said people should not
ignore the possible long-term effects of radiation exposure,
especially for kids.
That can include medical radiation, such as from CT scans, he said.
Though the risk from each individual scan is small, it’s not
negligible – especially for scans to the head and neck, he added.
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