Fatal fallout

日期:2018-02-25 07:58:50 作者:翁炷 阅读:

By Jeff Hecht in Boston MORE than 200 000 Americans could suffer thyroid cancer because of fallout from nuclear weapons tests conducted above Nevada in the 1950s and 1960s. But mass screening to identify the victims would not be worthwhile, according to an expert panel asked to consider the problem by the US government. The cancerous legacy of the Cold War arms race hit the headlines last year, when the US National Cancer Institute released a report concluding that the radioactive iodine-131 in the fallout would cause between 11 300 and 212 000 extra cases of thyroid cancer. Some politicians called for mass screening to identify the victims so that they could be treated. But a panel convened by the US National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine has rejected that idea. “The fear was that screening could culminate in more harm than good,” says William Schull, a public health specialist at the University of Texas in Houston, who headed the panel. Thyroid cancer is rarely fatal, says Schull, who notes that 90 per cent of patients are still alive 30 years after diagnosis. And screening by ultrasound or feeling the gland yields twice as many false positives as it does cancers. The only way to distinguish benign nodules from tumours is by taking biopsies. So as well as being costly, says Schull, screening would cause many unnecessary thyroid operations. Instead, the panel recommends teaching people the symptoms of thyroid cancer and encouraging them to consult their doctors if they suspect they have the disease. Physicians for Social Responsibility, a group that opposes nuclear weapons,