[ RadSafe ] FW: From Chernobyl to NY State: Increased Thyroid Cancer of Form Most Closely Associated with Radiation

Norm Cohen ncohen12 at comcast.net
Mon Apr 24 13:09:56 CDT 2006



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From: Michel Lee [mailto:ciecplee at optonline.net] 
Sent: Friday, April 21, 2006 11:38 AM
Subject: From Chernobyl to NY State: Increased Thyroid Cancer of Form Most
Closely Associated with Radiation



>From Chernobyl to NY State: Increased Thyroid Cancer   New York Times


Diagnoses of thyroid cancer in the United States are about twice as common
as they were in the early 1980's, rising most sharply since the
most of the increase has been in the form of thyroid cancer most
closely associated with radiation exposure.  [Full article below.]


In Throats of Émigrés, Doctors Find a Legacy of Chernobyl 

Published: April 20, 2006

The disaster struck 20 years ago on the other side of the world, in a nation
that no longer exists, and the memory has faded in American minds. But the
legacy of Chernobyl is turning up in hospitals and clinics in New York,
where it is growing.
James Estrin/The New York Times
Dr. Daniel I. Branovan examines Olga Sereda, 50, who immigrated from Kiev,
Ukraine. She is being treated for thyroid cancer. Ms. Sereda says that she
fears for daughter and mother, who are still in Ukraine. 

James Estrin/The New York Times
Pavel Zhukov has stitches removed after surgery for cancer. 

Cancer of the thyroid gland is rising in the United States, to about 30,000
new cases a year, according to the American Cancer Society and the National
Cancer Institute, and it is climbing more sharply in New York State.  While
there are no data on the rates among different ethnic groups, doctors who
work with émigrés from the former Soviet Union say that that population
accounts for a significant part of the rise, because of the accident at the
Chernobyl nuclear reactor in Pripyat, Ukraine, on April 26, 1986.

There is much dispute over the death toll and some of the health effects
from Chernobyl. But the link between nuclear fallout exposure and thyroid
cancer is well documented, in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and in areas of the
United States and other countries that were affected by aboveground nuclear
tests. Since Chernobyl, studies have found rates of thyroid cancer in
Belarus and Ukraine that are several times higher than before the accident.

Thyroid cancer is usually curable when it is caught early, but it kills
about 1,500 people a year in the United States, in part because it can go
undetected for years. Doctors who treat immigrants from Ukraine, Belarus and
western Russia say that they see a disturbing number of advanced cases
because patients do not know that they should be tested, and they often see
American doctors who do not immediately think in terms of radiation

Now, a group of doctors in New York are trying to warn immigrants and their
own doctors of the danger, and they have helped to organize a conference of
scientists to be held at the United Nations today — a few days short of the
20th anniversary — on the link between Chernobyl and thyroid cancer. They
say a systematic effort is needed to screen people who might have been
exposed, as in Belarus, where nearly all thyroid cancers are caught early
enough to be cured. Until then, it is impossible even to know the scope of
the problem.

"The diagnosis comes when they've already had symptoms like sore throat and
it's already spread to lymph nodes, which is much more serious," said Dr.
Daniel I. Branovan, an ear, nose and throat specialist at the New York Eye
and Ear Infirmary, in the East Village, and an organizer of the conference.

Pavel Zhukov knew the risks of radiation exposure when he lived in Mtsensk,
in western Russia. The government gave people small stipends to compensate
for the nuclear danger, he said, but "people called it burial money."

Mr. Zhukov, a 50-year-old construction worker, said he was told years ago in
Russia that his thyroid showed signs of abnormality, but he did not know
what to do about it. He went seven or eight years without an ultrasound scan
of his thyroid, he said, before moving to Brooklyn from Mtsensk five months
ago and having a scan there.

He had cancer, in a fairly advanced form. On April 7, his thyroid was
surgically removed, and he faces follow-up treatment with radiation. But Mr.
Zhukov was lucky; doctors found no cancer in his lymph nodes.

Diagnoses of thyroid cancer in the United States are about twice as common
as they were in the early 1980's, rising most sharply since the mid-1990's,
and there is some debate about how much of that is because of improved
detection. But most of the increase has been in the form of thyroid cancer
most closely associated with radiation exposure. And it has risen faster in
New York, home to the nation's largest concentration of Eastern European
immigrants, where it doubled in a decade.

There are about 700,000 people living in the United States who were born in
Ukraine, Belarus or Russia, including close to 200,000 in New York City, and
significantly smaller populations in the suburbs in both New York and New
Jersey, according to the Census Bureau and the City Planning Department.

A great majority of those people immigrated after Chernobyl, and they
probably account for hundreds of thyroid cancer cases a year, Dr. Branovan
said. It is another lesson in how hard it is to isolate health problems in
an era when people travel the world with ease and bring diseases — think
West Nile encephalitis or SARS — with them.

Diana Akerman remembers seeing other children in Chernovtsy, Ukraine,
suddenly lose their hair. "All hair," she said. "Eyelashes, eyebrows."

But her family moved to Brooklyn four years after the accident, and she
assumed that the risk to her had passed long ago. Miss Akerman, now a
27-year-old computer programmer living in the borough's Mill Basin section,
was unusual in that she had annual screenings. Early this year, a sonogram
showed a tiny spot that turned out to be cancerous; it was caught much
earlier than most cases.

The heaviest fallout from the meltdown at the Chernobyl nuclear plant hit
Belarus, immediately north of the plant, northern Ukraine and nearby parts
of western Russia.

One of the byproducts of nuclear reactions is a radioactive form of iodine.
The thyroid, a small gland at the base of the throat, collects iodine.

The first deaths and illness from Chernobyl hit people whose bodies were
simply overwhelmed by massive doses of radiation. Soon after came a wave of
cancers, like leukemia and lymphoma.

Thyroid cancers occurred most often in children, and those tended to appear
in the first decade. But for adults exposed to radiation, thyroid cancer can
take 20 years or more to develop.

The Soviet government waited days before admitting to the accident, and at
first played down the seriousness. It offered little useful advice in the
critical early days.

Olga Sereda lived in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, less than 80 miles south
of Chernobyl. She said that five days after the accident, thousands of
people were obliged to attend the annual May Day demonstration, standing
outside for hours, exposed to the fallout.

Ms. Sereda, 50, who now lives in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, said she, too,
assumed years ago that she was no longer in danger. But last summer, two
years after she moved to the United States, her doctor diagnosed thyroid
cancer, her gland was removed and she underwent radiation therapy.

Now, she says, she fears for her daughter and her mother, who are both still
in the Ukraine, and wonders what staying there has done to them. "If we knew
what can happen," she said, "maybe we would behave differently."
Next Article in New York Region (6 of 16) »
Video: Thyroid Cancer in New York




Michel Lee, Esq.


Council on Intelligent Energy

& Conservation Policy

P.O. Box 312

White Plains, New York 10602

(914) 393-2930

ciecplee at optonline.net


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