7 Juin 2016
June 7, 2016
By YURI OIWA/ Staff Writer
FUKUSHIMA--An additional 15 people in Fukushima Prefecture who were 18 or younger when the Fukushima nuclear disaster occurred have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer, including a child who was 5 at the time.
Fukushima prefectural authorities said June 6 that the new diagnoses, which were confirmed between January and March, raises the total number of confirmed cases to 131.
However, the prefecture’s review panel has not yet concluded whether radiation exposure from when the crisis unfolded at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in the prefecture, northeastern Japan, is responsible.
“It is difficult to conclude that thyroid cancer cases found so far were caused by the nuclear disaster,” a panel member said.
The Fukushima prefectural government conducted a mass thyroid examination of about 380,000 people who were 18 or younger at the time of the disaster. The screening was divided into two rounds, one undertaken between autumn 2011 and March 2014, and the other, larger scale one between April 2014 and March 2016.
As of the end of March, 173 people were suspected or confirmed of having developed thyroid cancers, the examination found.
Of these, 116 suspected or confirmed cases were found in the first round of screening and 57 such cases were revealed in the second round.
Among the cases detected in the first round of screening, 102 people underwent operations. One person was found to have a benign tumor, and the remaining 101 people were confirmed to have developed thyroid cancer.
For the cases found in the second round of screening, 30 people had surgery, all of whom were confirmed to have developed the cancers.
The panel has denied the causal link between thyroid cancers with radiation exposure.
It cited such reasons as the smaller amount of thyroid exposure to radiation among Fukushima residents compared with the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident, and the absence of cancer cases among children aged 5 years or younger that had been prevalent in Chernobyl.
Although the latest cases include that of the then 5-year-old child, a panel member said: “There were a spate of thyroid cancer cases in children aged between zero and 5 years in Chernobyl, but there is only one case in Fukushima Prefecture.
“That does not immediately lead to the conclusion that (the thyroid cancers in Fukushima Prefecture) were caused by radiation,” the member added.