Study results presented at the 13th European Cancer Conference (ECCO 13) have provided further valuable insights into certain genetic mutations which occur in childhood thyroid tumours and their link to both radiation exposure and patient age.
The unique circumstances of this study were provided for by the legacy of the radioactive accident at Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in April 1986. Exposure to radioactive fallout led to a large increase in the incidence of papillary thyroid cancer (PTC), which was particularly pronounced in those who were children at the time of the accident. In normal circumstances, thyroid cancer is rare in children under the age of sixteen.
The Chernobyl Tissue Bank was established in 1998 to collect biological samples from those aged under 19 at the time of the accident who subsequently developed thyroid tumours and were resident in the areas of Ukraine and Russia contaminated by the radioactive iodine (131-I) fallout. Radioactive iodine 131-1 has a short half-life of seven days and quickly dissipates in the environment. The investigators were aware of the fact that the incidence of thyroid cancer had dropped down to normal occurrence rates in those children born 9 months after the Chernobyl accident. The continued collection of material by the Tissue Bank gave the investigators a unique opportunity to compare the samples gathered from children who experienced the Chernobyl accident with those born nine months after the incident whose thyroid cancers were unlikely to arise from exposure to 131-I.
Kirsten Mason | EurekAlert!
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