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Thyroid cancer now suspected in 104 youths from Fukushima; government denies link to radiation

Thyroid cancer

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(NaturalNews) The latest health report from Fukushima Prefecture counts 104 young people with confirmed or suspected thyroid cancer, suggesting a dramatically higher than normal rate. Because nuclear disasters release large amounts of radioactive iodine, which accumulates in the thyroid gland, thyroid cancer is a known risk of such events.

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

Yet, in spite of this shocking figure, the prefecture is attempting to downplay any potential connection with the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Tumor rate 20 times normal

In March 2011, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant suffered multiple meltdowns following a massive earthquake and tsunami, and released enormous amounts of radioactive material into the surrounding environment.

On June 30, 2014, the prefecture publicized the result of thyroid gland tests on 300,000 residents who were 18 or younger at the time of the nuclear disaster. Of those with suspected or confirmed thyroid cancer, the average age at the time of the disaster was 14.8. Of the 104 cases, 57 have been confirmed as cancerous and one has been categorized as a benign tumor.

A rate of 104 cases in 300,000 youths translates to an average of nearly 35 cases per 100,000. In contrast, the thyroid cancer rate among teenagers of equivalent age in Miyagi Prefecture, far from Fukushima, is only 1.7 per 100,000.

The Aizu region, just over 80 kilometers from Fukushima, has a rate of 27.7 per 100,000, with examinations still ongoing. The Nakadori region, which includes the city of Fukushima itself and several mandatory evacuation zones, has a rate of 35 per 100,000.

Government denies link, but signs continue to emerge

Fukushima officials have denied any connection between the elevated cancer rates and the nuclear disaster. In addition, some officials have attempted to cast doubt on the findings by noting that it took four years for thyroid cancer rates to rise following the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, and that many of the youths with suspected cancer are not showing any symptoms.

"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]," said Hokuto Hoshi, chair of the panel designated to discuss and analyze the results of the health survey.

Critics counter that thyroid cancer screening techniques have significantly improved since 1986, allowing earlier detection.

Indeed, a 2004 study published in the journal Radiation Research found that thyroid cancer rates 18 years after the Chernobyl disaster were directly related to the radioactive iodine dose absorbed by patients back in 1986.

In July 2014, a Japanese doctor wrote an open letter to the newsletter of the Association of Doctors in Kodaira, metropolitan Tokyo, explaining that he believes eastern Japan to be too contaminated by radiation for humans to safely inhabit. The author, Shigeru Mita, had worked as a doctor in metropolitan Tokyo for more than 50 years before deciding that the region was no longer safe.

In the letter, Mita noted that, since the disaster, he had seen dramatic increases in radiation-induced health problems. These problems included "nosebleed, hair loss, lack of energy, subcutaneous bleeding, visible urinary hemorrhage, skin inflammations, coughs and various other non-specific symptoms," as well as rheumatic muscle problems similar to those seen after the Chernobyl disaster.

Other problems, such as declining white blood cell counts in children under the age of 10 and persistent respiratory symptoms, showed rapid improvement in patients who moved to western Japan.

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