Chanock Discusses the Impact of the Chernobyl Accident on Thyroid Cancer


Stephen J. Chanock, MD, discusses the background of the Chernobyl accident and its association with thyroid cancer.

Stephen J. Chanock, MD, senior investigator, director of the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics at the United States National Cancer Institute, discusses the background of the Chernobyl accident and its association with thyroid cancer.

On April 26, 1986, the number 4 reactor at the nuclear power plant in Chernobyl, Ukraine, exploded, leading to a large amount of radiation to fall into the atmosphere and land in Northern Ukraine, Southern Belarus, and the tip of Russia.

During the 91st Annual Meeting of the American Thyroid Association, Chanock discussed the radiation-related genomic profile of patients with papillary thyroid cancer following this incident.


0:08 | We know, April 26, 1986, at roughly 1:30 in the morning, 1 of the 4 reactors in Chernobyl exploded unexpectedly. A large swath of Northern Ukraine, Southern Belarus, and the very tip of Russia received quite a large dose of radiation fallout. It was a day and a half before the authorities in the Soviet Union admitted to it, and when the Swedish and German meters were going wild, showing that there was atmospheric radiation wafting away but at much lower levels. It was very clear that there was a terrible disaster.

0:56 | The extent to which it was affecting people was really hard to assess and it was hard to assess the dates in which we knew, but we'd already known that extended exposure or very bursts of high-dose radiation, ionizing radiation in children, young adults, have an increased risk for leukemia and thyroid disease. Now, there are other cancers, but leukemia and thyroid were really the major ones. Leukemia is in the short term when you have very high doses. Then the lower doses or a moderate dose is in the thyroid and that occurs over a period of time.

1:35 | It took about 2 or 3 years to organize an international effort to then set up programs that for instance, I work in the National Cancer Institute, we're in concert with a number of other organizations, Ukrainians, Belarusians, Russians, and Brits, to screen and start to follow the children under 18, who we knew were exposed. There were sort of different studies in different regions of those 3 countries that have continued on to varying degrees.

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