High incidence of disease in Belarus state due to Chernobyl accident

by Hiromi Morita, Staff Writer

On March 26 it was revealed that many residents of Brest State, Belarus, have developed thyroid diseases, including cancer, in connection with the accident in 1986 at a nuclear power plant in Chernobyl. Previously, it had been thought that this part of Belarus suffered only minor damage.

At a symposium organized by Hiroshima University’s Research Institute for Radiation Biology and Medicine (RIRBM), held in Hiroshima, A. Grigorovicz, the director of the Brest Endocrinology Center in Belarus, made public the number of cases of thyroid-related disease for the first time.

In 1985, the year before the Chernobyl accident, there were 61 cases of thyroid cancer in Brest State. But the number of cases increased sharply in the 1990s, reaching 2,286 in 2008, or 37 times that of 1985.

Over the past ten years, up until last year, 164,175 people in Brest State received health checkups in examination units with the cooperation of RIRBM and medical practitioners from the city of Hiroshima. Serious cancers were most common in young people under the age of 25.

Brest State was not downwind of Chernobyl at the time of the accident. The state was thought to have suffered only mild contamination. Mr. Grigorovicz pointed out the possibility that highly-radioactive materials lingered in the area and were responsible for producing the diseases after an incubation period of more than four years, particularly in young people, whose bodies are more susceptible to radiation damage.

(Originally published on March 27, 2009)