The relationship of thyroid cancer with radiation exposure from nuclear weapon testing in the Marshall Islands

Tatsuya Takahashi, Minouk J. Schoemaker, Klaus R. Trott, Steven L. Simon, Keisei Fujimori, Noriaki Nakashima, Akira Fukao, Hiroshi Saito

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The US nuclear weapons testing program in the Pacific conducted between 1946 and 1958 resulted in radiation exposure in the Marshall Islands. The potentially widespread radiation exposure from radioiodines of fallout has raised concerns about the risk of thyroid cancer in the Marshallese population. The most serious exposures and its health hazards resulted from the hydrogen-thermonuclear bomb test, the Castle BRAVO, on March 1, 1954. Between 1993 and 1997, we screened 3,709 Marshallese for thyroid disease who were born before the BRAVO test. It was 60% of the entire population at risk and who were still alive at the time of our examinations. We diagnosed 30 thyroid cancers and found 27 other study participants who had been operated for thyroid cancer before our screening in this group. Fifty-seven Marshallese born before 1954 (1.5%) had thyroid cancer or had been operated for thyroid cancer. Nearly all (92%) of these cancers were papillary carcinoma. We derived estimates of individual thyroid dose proxy from the BRAVO test in 1954 on the basis of published age-specific doses estimated on Utirik atoll and 137Cs deposition levels on the atolls where the participants came from. There was suggestive evidence that the prevalence of thyroid cancer increased with category of estimated dose to the thyroid.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-107
Number of pages9
Journaljournal of epidemiology
Volume13
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2003

Keywords

  • Bikini Atoll
  • Marshall Islands
  • Radiation exposure
  • Radioactive fallout
  • Thyroid cancer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology

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