Major Factors Affecting Incidence of Childhood Thyroid Cancer in Belarus after the Chernobyl Accident: Do Nitrates in Drinking Water Play a Role?

PLoS ONE. 2015;10(9):e0137226 DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0137226

 

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Journal Title: PLoS ONE

ISSN: 1932-6203 (Online)

Publisher: Public Library of Science (PLoS)

LCC Subject Category: Medicine | Science

Country of publisher: United States

Language of fulltext: English

Full-text formats available: PDF, HTML, XML

 

AUTHORS

Valentina M Drozd
Vladimir A Saenko
Alina V Brenner
Vladimir Drozdovitch
Vasilii I Pashkevich
Anatoliy V Kudelsky
Yuri E Demidchik
Igor Branovan
Nikolay Shiglik
Tatiana I Rogounovitch
Shunichi Yamashita
Johannes Biko
Christoph Reiners

EDITORIAL INFORMATION

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Time From Submission to Publication: 24 weeks

 

Abstract | Full Text

One of the major health consequences of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant accident in 1986 was a dramatic increase in incidence of thyroid cancer among those who were aged less than 18 years at the time of the accident. This increase has been directly linked in several analytic epidemiological studies to iodine-131 (131I) thyroid doses received from the accident. However, there remains limited understanding of factors that modify the 131I-related risk. Focusing on post-Chernobyl pediatric thyroid cancer in Belarus, we reviewed evidence of the effects of radiation, thyroid screening, and iodine deficiency on regional differences in incidence rates of thyroid cancer. We also reviewed current evidence on content of nitrate in groundwater and thyroid cancer risk drawing attention to high levels of nitrates in open well water in several contaminated regions of Belarus, i.e. Gomel and Brest, related to the usage of nitrogen fertilizers. In this hypothesis generating study, based on ecological data and biological plausibility, we suggest that nitrate pollution may modify the radiation-related risk of thyroid cancer contributing to regional differences in rates of pediatric thyroid cancer in Belarus. Analytic epidemiological studies designed to evaluate joint effect of nitrate content in groundwater and radiation present a promising avenue of research and may provide useful insights into etiology of thyroid cancer.