[ RadSafe ] Response to Franz Schönhofer, Digest 2191, "Overdiagnosis of thyroid cancer"

Peter Crane kinderhook46 at yahoo.com
Sun Dec 4 14:58:27 CST 2016

On December 3, Franz Schönhofer wrote:
"Already at the conference '10 years after Chernobyl' at the IAEA in Vienna 
there was talk about that the many ailments of the population living near 
Chernobyl were a consequence of malnutrition and lack of essential 
constituents of food like vitamins and proteins. Already there and more 
intensively following the conference it was a common view among scientists, 
that the rise of numbers of diagnosed thyroid cancers was due to intensified 
checks for it among a population which never had access before to good 
medical care. So it would be clear for any medium intelligent human being 
that this is a convincing coincidence - as I see from this paper it seems 
not to be among our 'UNITED ANTIS' -'scientists'. Logical thinking seems not 
to be their strength."

Maybe that is true for a "medium intelligent human being," but for the 50 percent of the population with more than "medium intelligence," this doesn't wash. I was a participant and presenter in the 1998 conference on Radiation and Thyroid Cancer held at Cambridge University in the UK (co-sponsored by the European Commission, the USDOE, the National Cancer Institute, and Cambridge University), and I don't think there was a person there who would accept the idea that radiation from Chernobyl was not a cause of the epidemic of thyroid cancer in Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine in the aftermath of the accident. 
That was 1998. WHO's "Health Effects of the Chernobyl accident: an overview," in April 2006, is thoughtful and balanced in its treatment of post-Chernobyl thyroid cancer, and worth quoting at some length: "Thyroid cancer
A large increase in the incidence of thyroid cancer has occurred among people who were young children and adolescents at the time of the accident and lived in the most contaminated areas of Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine. This was due to the high levels of radioactive iodine released from the Chernobyl reactor in the early days after the accident. Radioactive iodine was deposited in pastures eaten by cows who then concentrated it in their milk which was subsequently drunk by children. This was further exacerbated by a general iodine deficiency in the local diet causing more of the radioactive iodine to be accumulated in the thyroid. Since radioactive iodine is short lived, if people had stopped giving locally supplied contaminated milk to children for a few months following the accident, it is likely that most of the increase in radiation-induced thyroid cancer would not have resulted.
In Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine nearly 5000 cases of thyroid cancer have now been diagnosed to date among children who were aged up to 18 years at the time of the accident. While a large number of these cancers resulted from radiation following the accident, intense medical monitoring for thyroid disease among the affected population has also resulted in the detection of thyroid cancers at a sub-clinical level, and so contributed to the overall increase in thyroid cancer numbers. ..."
Franz, that's a scientific and medical body speaking, not the anti-nukes that you so often rail against here.  I realize that we now live in a post-factual world, in which people feel at liberty to disseminate any sort of material on social media that corresponds to how they feel, regardless of whether it bears any relation to objective fact. But I think it is especially important that on a site like RADSAFE, we all try to do our part in holding the line for truth, reality, and scientific accuracy. Thus I ask you, Franz: what facts, what data, what expert opinion do you have that has revealed to you that what WHO wrote is incorrect? I think you owe us an answer. 
Bear in mind that the first cohort of childhood cancers showed up in the area around Minsk in 1991. No one was yet screening for thyroid cancer in children in those days, because the latency period was believed to be much longer. They were suddenly having kids come into doctors' offices with growths in the neck. Except for the ideologues of the hormesis movement, the major health lesson learned from Chernobyl is the extreme radiosensitivity of the child's thyroid, especially those under four years old or in utero at the time of exposure. 
That does not mean that radiation was directly responsible for all the ill health that followed Chernobyl in the affected areas. Depression, anxiety, alcoholism, poor eating habits,  etc. have nothing to do with radiation per se. The fact that from the standpoint of public health, these ailments may have been a greater problem (if only because more widespread), does not justify inaccuracy about the causes of the thyroid disease.
Likewise, it is irrelevant that overdiagnosis, and the greed of doctors eager to perform thyroidectomies on people who don't need them, are responsible for the spike in reported thyroid cancer cases in South Korea. (There, a lot of the thyroidectomies are done robotically, with catheters inserted from the armpit, to avoid the scar across the neck. That further pushes up the bill.) This is a case of "so what?" Even if we assume for purposes of argument that radiation is not responsible for a single one of the recent cases of thyroid cancer in South Korea, by what logic can one argue that this shows that radiation did not cause the cancers after Chernobyl? Why not go even further, and argue that radiation also did not cause the thyroid cancers in the Marshall Islands and among "downwinders" in the American West? 
So perhaps you could clarify your logic, Franz, because I don't get it.
Finally, Franz, you brought up the matter of elections, in the U.S. and Austria. I'll just quote an old line that you may know, "Nur die allerdummsten Kälber wählen für den Metzger selber." [Only the dumbest calves of all vote for the butcher himself.]
-- Peter Crane, Seattle 

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