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Association between the detection rate of thyroid cancer and the external radiation dose-rate after the nuclear power plant accidents in Fukushima, Japan via Medicine

Yamamoto, Hidehiko MDa; Hayashi, Keiji MDb; Scherb, Hagen Dr rer nat Dipl-Mathc,*

A thyroid cancer ultrasonography screening for all residents 18 years old or younger living in the Fukushima prefecture started in October 2011 to investigate the possible effect of the radiological contamination after the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accidents as of March 12 to 15, 2011. Thyroid cancer in 184 cases was reported by February 2017. The question arises to which extent those cancer cases are a biological consequence of the radiation exposure or an artefactual result of the intense screening of a large population.

Experiences with the Chernobyl accident suggest that the external dose may be considered a valid surrogate for the internal dose of the thyroid gland. We, therefore, calculated the average external effective dose-rate (μSv/h) for the 59 municipalities of the Fukushima prefecture based on published data of air and soil radiation. We further determined the municipality-specific absolute numbers of thyroid cancers found by each of the two screening rounds in the corresponding municipality-specific exposed person-time observed. A possible association between the radiation exposure and the thyroid cancer detection rate was analyzed with Poisson regression assuming Poisson distributed thyroid cancer cases in the exposed person-time observed per municipality.

The target populations consisted of 367,674 and 381,286 children and adolescents for the 1st and the 2nd screening rounds, respectively. In the 1st screening, 300,476 persons participated and 270,489 in the 2nd round. From October 2011 to March 2016, a total of 184 cancer cases were found in 1,079,786 person-years counted from the onset of the exposure to the corresponding examination periods in the municipalities. A significant association between the external effective dose-rate and the thyroid cancer detection rate exists: detection rate ratio (DRR) per μSv/h 1.065 (1.013, 1.119). Restricting the analysis to the 53 municipalities that received less than 2 μSv/h, and which represent 176 of the total 184 cancer cases, the association appears to be considerably stronger: DRR per μSv/h 1.555 (1.096, 2.206).

The average radiation dose-rates in the 59 municipalities of the Fukushima prefecture in June 2011 and the corresponding thyroid cancer detection rates in the period October 2011 to March 2016 show statistically significant relationships.

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