Fukushima medical survey confirms 14 new child thyroid cancer cases

A doctor conducts a thyroid examination on four-year-old Maria Sakamoto, brought by her mother to the office of Iwaki Radiation Citizen Centre NPO, Iwaki town, Fukushima prefecture. © Damir Sagolj
The number of child thyroid cancers discovered in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster has reached 131, with the latest panel review adding 14 to the list of those suffering from the deadly disease, along with dozens of new suspected cases.

After the latest review of the ongoing second round of medical checkups conducted on almost 300,000 children who were aged 18 or younger at the time of the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in March 2011, the prefecture-run program announced that a total 131 people have now been diagnosed with thyroid cancer.

Some 30 thyroid cancer cases were added to the radiation victims toll following the second round of checkups that began in April 2014. A further 27 people are suspected of having the disease. Previous numbers disclosed in February showed that 16 patients suffered from cancer.

In the latest announcement, scientists also say that a child who was less than five-years-old at the time of the tragedy had also been diagnosed with cancer. The new figures of those confirmed or suspected to have thyroid cancer have tumors ranging from 5.3 mm to 35.6 mm.

The first thyroid cancer detection round studying minors was conducted in Japan between 2011 to 2014 and discovered 101 people with thyroid cancer. With the latest numbers, the new toll stands at 131, while another 41 are suspected of suffering from radiation exposure, Japan Times reports.

“Concerns have been growing among Fukushima residents with the increase in the number of cancer patients. We’d like to further conduct an in-depth study,” said Hokuto Hoshi, head of the panel and a senior member of the Fukushima Medical Association.

He however maintained the panel’s earlier accession that it is “unlikely” that the disease cases was caused by radiation exposure, reiterating claims that there is no direct link between thyroid cancer and the nuclear disaster.

After the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, radioactive elements were released from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. After the release, Fukushima Prefecture continued to conduct thyroid screening ultrasounds on all residents agds 18 years and younger. The first round of screening included 298,577 examinees, while the round that began in April 2014 focuses on 267,769 people.