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Radiation Exposure Associated With Aggressive Thyroid Cancers

Update Date: Oct 28, 2014 01:48 PM EDT

Exposure to radioactive iodine is associated with more aggressive forms of thyroid cancer, according to a new study. 

The study has been performed on 12,000 people in Belarus who were exposed when they children or adolescents to fallout from the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident. 

Researchers examined thyroid cancers diagnosed up to two decades after the Chernobyl accident and found that higher thyroid radiation doses estimated from measurements taken shortly after the accident were associated with more aggressive tumor features, the press release added. 

"Our group has previously shown that exposures to radioactive iodine significantly increase the risk of thyroid cancer in a dose-dependent manner. The new study shows that radiation exposures are also associated with distinct clinical features that are more aggressive," said the paper's first author, Lydia Zablotska, MD, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at UC San Francisco (UCSF), in the press release.

According to Zablotska, the findings may have implications for those exposed to radioactive iodine fallout from the 2011 nuclear reactor incidents in Fukushima, Japan, after the reactors were damaged by an earthquake-induced tsunami. 

"Those exposed as children or adolescents to the fallout are at highest risk and should probably be screened for thyroid cancer regularly, because these cancers are aggressive, and they can spread really fast," Zablotska added in the press release. "Clinicians should be aware of the aggressiveness of radiation-associated tumors and closely monitor those at high risk."

The paper will be published online Tuesday, Oct. 28, in the journal Cancer.

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