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Fukushima radiation hits home as thyroid cancer rises among children

Thyroid cancer rates were about 20 to 50 times the national average, according to the analysis.

By
Elizabeth Shim
Japanese police wearing chemical protection suits search for victims near the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Minamisoma, Fukushima prefecture, Japan, on April 15, 2011. A team of Japanese researchers led by Toshihide Tsuda, a professor of environmental epidemiology at Okayama University, said cases of thyroid cancer in Fukushima Prefecture have skyrocketed since March 2011. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI
Japanese police wearing chemical protection suits search for victims near the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Minamisoma, Fukushima prefecture, Japan, on April 15, 2011. A team of Japanese researchers led by Toshihide Tsuda, a professor of environmental epidemiology at Okayama University, said cases of thyroid cancer in Fukushima Prefecture have skyrocketed since March 2011. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo

TOKYO, Oct. 8 (UPI) -- Fukushima radiation has been linked to a surge in thyroid cancer among children near the disaster area, and radiation woes have reach South Korea, where findings revealed imported tobacco from Japan contained higher than normal levels of radioactive cesium.

A team of Japanese researchers led by Toshihide Tsuda, a professor of environmental epidemiology at Okayama University, said cases of thyroid cancer in Fukushima Prefecture have skyrocketed since March 2011, Kyodo News reported.

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The rates were about 20 to 50 times the national average, according to the analysis. The findings were based on screenings of 370,000 Fukushima residents age 18 or younger, and the culprit was increased radiation exposure since the Fukushima nuclear disaster hit the area in March 2011. In late August, the prefecture had identified 104 cases of thyroid cancer.

Some epidemiologists like Shoichiro Tsugane of the National Cancer Center disputed the findings and said it is too early to say whether the results are conclusive.

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"Unless radiation exposure data are checked, any specific relationship between a cancer incidence and radiation cannot be identified," said Tsugane, adding there is a trend of over-diagnosing thyroid cancer.

Japan's nuclear radiation woes have reached neighboring South Korea, and government officials in Seoul have begun to raise concerns about radioactive cesium in imported tobacco. South Korean outlet Newsis reported Thursday.

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After a parliamentary audit, South Korean opposition party lawmaker In Jae-keun said 20,271 tons of imported Japanese tobacco imported from seven prefectures, including Fukushima, contained the radioactive isotope. In 421 tests of native and burley leaf tobacco, 68 percent tested positive for cesium.

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The revelation is a public health concern, according to Newsis, because South Korea does not check Japanese tobacco for radiation and has only conducted tar and nicotine tests on the products.

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