Major Factors Affecting Incidence of Childhood Thyroid Cancer in Belarus after the Chernobyl Accident: Do Nitrates in Drinking Water Play a Role?
The thyroid gland in children is one of the organs that is most sensitive to external exposure to X and gamma rays. However, data on the risk of thyroid cancer in children after exposure to radioactive iodines are sparse. The Chornobyl accident in Ukraine in 1986 led to the exposure of large populations to radioactive iodines, particularly (131)I. This paper describes an ongoing cohort study being conducted in Belarus and Ukraine that includes 25,161 subjects under the age of 18 years in 1986 who are being screened for thyroid diseases every 2 years. Individual thyroid doses are being estimated for all study subjects based on measurement of the radioactivity of the thyroid gland made in 1986 together with a radioecological model and interview data. Approximately 100 histologically confirmed thyroid cancers were detected as a consequence of the first round of screening. The data will enable fitting appropriate dose-response models, which are important in both radiation epidemiology and public health for prediction of risks from exposure to radioactive iodines from medical sources and any future nuclear accidents. Plans are to continue to follow-up the cohort for at least three screening cycles, which will lead to more precise estimates of risk.