Childhood Thyroid Cancer in Fukushima

11. März 2011 - 11. März 2014 Fukushima in Nordostjapan
The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 12, Issue 48, No. 2, December 8, 2014.
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Demystifying the Official Discourse on Childhood Thyroid Cancer in Fukushima
Piers Williamson

On 9 October 2011, Fukushima Medical University (FMU) started a two-stage programme of thyroid cancer tests for 368,000 minors in Fukushima Prefecture who were aged 18 or under on 11 March 2011. The first stage was the ‘Preliminary Baseline Survey’ and centred on residents in ‘high exposure areas’. The original plan had been to commence three years after the incident, but the testing was brought forward due to parental concerns.1 In April 2014, FMU started the second stage ‘Full Scale Survey’ of 380,000 minors. Participants are to be tested once every two years until they are 20 years old, and then every 5 years for the rest of their lives. The programme uses advanced ultrasound equipment and is unprecedented in scale. It is part of a wider Health Management Survey aimed at estimating the exposure levels of all Fukushima residents, approximately 2 million people. The first case of thyroid cancer was reported on 12 September 2012 after 80,000 children had been tested.2 Since then, the numbers have risen steadily. As of writing, 56 have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer, 1 with a benign tumour, and a further 47 are suspected of having the cancer. This brings the probable total to 103 out of 296,026 minors examined.3 Thus far, nearly all initially ‘suspected’ cancers have later been confirmed as malignant.

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