An oversight committee looking at the health of folks living in the Fukushima Prefecture of Japan near the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power facility has found that the thyroid cancer rate in young people has jumped by an astounding 6,000% throughout the region since the disaster first occurred back in 2011.
Reports indicate that, since January of this year, 16 new cases of thyroid cancer have emerged, bringing the total number of young people diagnosed with the disease to 103. Correspondingly, as many as 127 people have been diagnosed with or are suspected of having thyroid cancer, according to Japan’s Asahi Shimbun.
The Fukushima Voice reports that, as of March 31, all 16 identified cases have been confirmed as definitive papillary thyroid cancer, with an additional nine suspected cases. The figures represent reported cases from both the first round of initial screening, which included looking at 368,000 individuals 18 years and younger, as well as a second round.
“Full-Scale Screening (the second-round screening), to be conducted every 2 years until age 20 and every 5 years after age 20, additionally targets those who were born in the first year after the accident, aiming to examine approximately 385,000 individuals in a 2-year period,” explains the Fukushima Voice.
Committee head determines that patient profiles of Fukushima thyroid cancer have a “striking similarity” to Chernobyl
In its estimation of the findings of these two screenings, the Interim Summary of the Thyroid Examination Evaluation Subcommittee determined that the sum of the new cases represents an “excess incidence” of pediatric thyroid cancer. The cases also represent “an order of magnitude” increase, stated the committee, following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.
The committee was hesitant to peg Fukushima radiation as the cause, suggesting that overdiagnosis may also be a factor. But many of the committee’s members also agreed that Fukushima radiation has not been completely ruled out, as the profiles of the cases closely match those observed following the Chernobyl disaster back in 1986.
“There is a striking similarity between the [age] profiles of patients diagnosed during the period of latency after Chernobyl in Ukraine and currently in Fukushima,” states a presentation[PDF] by Shinichi Suzuki, the man heading the Fukushima Thyroid Examination.
“In contrast, patients diagnosed in Ukraine after the period of latency, when radiation-induced tumors started to manifest, displayed principally a different age pattern. No such patient has been diagnosed in Fukushima thus far.”
Researchers say Japanese government blocked efforts to test for thyroid cancer in Fukushima following disaster
Part of the problem in clearly pinning down the cause of this thyroid cancer increase is that the regional government actively blocked such research from being conducted in the days and weeks following the disaster. Sakiyama Hisako, a former senior researcher at the National Institute of Radiological Sciences, told the media that he observed this firsthand when trying to conduct his own research.
Hisako says that “power was deployed to stop measurements of thyroid exposure being taken,” to quote Japan Focus.
Professor Tokonami Shinji from Hirosaki University is also quoted as saying that he “tried to measure exposure levels immediately after the explosions… but was halted by Fukushima Prefecture, which accused him of stirring up trouble.”
Prof. Shinji did, however, go on to test 65 Fukushima residents individually, one month after the disaster, and detected radioactive iodine in the thyroids of 50 of them, or 77%. This is suggestive of Fukushima fallout, as radioactive iodine is one of the many damaging isotopes released by nuclear reactors following a meltdown.