Atomic bomb victims: dose versus leukemia cases


  1. One might note some radiation biologists distinguish leukemia from solid tumors. At the suggestion of a comment left in a previous LNT thread, I’ve begun reading US National Research Council BEIR-VII report. Its over 400 pages, so may take a while. At the risk of some cherry-picking, under “Estimating Cancer Risks” its Executive Summary notes

    In general the magnitude of estimated risks for total cancer mortality or leukemia has not changed greatly from estimates in past reports such as BEIR V and recent reports of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation and the International Commission on Radiological Protection. New data and analyses have reduced sampling uncertainty, but uncertainties related to estimating risk for exposure at low doses and dose rates and to transporting risks from Japanese A-bomb survivors to the U.S. population remain large. Uncertainties in estimating risks of site-specific cancers are especially large…

    and concludes

    …current scientific evidence is consistent with the hypothesis that there is a linear, nothreshold dose-response relationship between exposure to ionizing radiation and the development of cancer in humans.

    … which will probably make sense to all those it makes sense to.

    BEIR-VII also attempts to distinguish among solid tumor types, finding for instance that

    “Quantitative animal data on dose-response relationships provide a complex picture of low-LET (linear energy transfer) radiation, with some tumor types showing linear or linear-quadratic relationships, while studies of other tumor types are suggestive of a low-dose threshold, particularly for thymic lymphoma and ovarian cancer. However, the induction or development of these two cancer types is believed to proceed via atypical mechanisms involving cell killing; therefore it was judged that the threshold-like responses observed should not be generalized…

    More on page 74. Overall however, I find BEIR-VII’s Executive Summary somewhat unpersuasive; the way findings are neatly summarized in Figure ES-1 (page 16) does not really help. On the other hand the Executive Summary is far from the entire report, which I have yet to read.

    Two other relevant references:
    1. (Low-dose) Radiation is not a Big Deal:

    The United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) (UNSCEAR 2012) submitted the report that, among other things, states that uncertainties at low doses are such that UNSCEAR “does not recommend multiplying low doses by large numbers of individuals to estimate numbers of radiation-induced health effects within a population exposed to incremental doses at levels equivalent to or below natural background levels.” (UNDOC/V1255385)

    2. A Review of Research Relevant to New Build Nuclear Power Plants in the UK includes a section on radiation safety. From Section 3.2.1 page 11

    “The lack of certainty about health risks from low dose radiation has prompted the linear no-threshold (LNT) model of radiation risk… This approach has informed regulatory approaches to the nuclear sector, but is contested. Reports by the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP 2007), the US National Academies’ Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation (BEIR VII) (National Research Council 2006) and the French Academies of Science and Medicine (Tubiana, Aurengo et al. 2006) have reviewed biological epidemiological data to explore this issue…The reports however differ in their conclusions about the safety implications of low dose radiation.

    Fascinating stuff, radiation biology is not a simple as it looks.

    1. Ed Leaver, as an Emeritus Professor of Biology, I agree with you when you say “radiiation biology is fascinating stuff”. I took my first graduate level course on the biological effects of radiation over 50 years ago. Since you brought up Chernoby, I will also mention some take home lessons from that event. The late Zbigniew Jaworowski MD PhD DSc, former Chairman of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) states, “What is really surprising, however, is that data collected by UNSCEAR and the Chernobyl Forum show 15% to 30% fewer cancer deaths among the Chernobyl emergency workers and about 5% lower solid cancer incidence among the people in the Bryansk district (the most contaminated in Russia) in comparison with the general population.

      In most irradiated group of these people (mean dose of 40 mSv) the deficit of cancer incidence was 17%. Nor did the incidence of hereditary disorders increase. These epidemiological data should be used as a proper basis for realistic projection of the future health of millions of people officially labeled “victims of Chernobyl”, rather than an assumption (LNT) on linear no-threshold relationship between irradiation and medical effect. This assumption tells that even near zero radiation dose can lead to cancer death and hereditary disorders. LNT assumption was used by Chernobyl Forum to estimate 4000 to 9336 future cancer deaths among people who received low radiation doses, lower than lifetime natural doses in many regions of the world.

      Greenpeace had less hesitations and in its report of April 2006 calculated six million cancer deaths due to Chernobyl event. Dr. Lauriston Taylor, the late president of the U.S. National Council on Radiological Protection and Measurements deemed such practice to be “a deeply immoral use of our scientific heritage”.

      UNSCEAR’s sober conclusion is that the people living in “contaminated regions of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine “need not live in fear of serious health consequences”, and forecasts that “generally positive prospects for the future health of most individuals should prevail.” In centuries to come, the catastrophe will be remembered as a proof that nuclear power is a safe means of energy production.”

        1. Thank you Rod for adding paragraph breaks. Thanks for posting Dr.Cuttler’s lettter; The US National Academy of Science could help alleviate a lot of mistrust of radiation by dropping adherence to the LNT model and embracing a biphasic curve model for radiation exposure.

      1. The late Zbigniew Jaworowski MD PhD DSc, former Chairman of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) states …

        @John Tjostem

        These statements seem to be entirely unsupported by Chernobyl Forum report.

        “The international expert group predicts that among the 600,000 persons receiving more significant exposures (liquidators working in 1986 – 1987, evacuees, and residents of the most ‘contaminated’ areas), the possible increase in cancer mortality due to this radiation exposure might be up to a few per cent. This might eventually represent up to four thousand fatal cancers in addition to the approximately 100,000 fatal cancers to be expected due to all other causes in this population. Among the 5 mil- lion persons residing in other ‘contaminated’ areas, the doses are much lower and any projected increases are more speculative, but are expected to make a difference of less than one per cent in cancer mortality” (p. 15-16).


        “Elevated radiation-induced morbidity and mortality from solid cancers of both emergency workers and populations of areas contaminated with radionuclides still might be expected during decades to come and requires more research” (p. 47).

        Jaworowski seems to be saying we already have our number, and no health follow-up is going to be needed to further assess this issue. His statement is kind of a screed, and not so much a detailed scientific study or assessment.

        1. EL – Dr. Jaworowski was referring to the results reported in Ivanov et al. (Ivanov, V.K., Tsyb, A.F., Ivanov, S., and Pokrovsky, V., Medical Radiological Consequences of the Chernobyl Catastrophe in Russia, NAUKA, St. Petersburg, 2004.) which was the most comprehensive followup on the consequences of the Chernobyl accident at the time (and possibly still is for all I know).

          This document was a key resource for the Chernobyl Forum and is highly cited in their report; however, the Forum chose to ignore some of its less convenient results in their conclusions, instead bowing to the status quo and publishing figures based on LNT.

          All of these highly “speculative” conclusions with the heavy use of qualifiers (“possible,” “might be,” “might eventually,” “up to,” etc.) that you quote result from calculations that apply the LNT model to collective dose. This is a misapplication of the LNT model according to organizations such as the US Health Physics Society and UNSCEAR (see above). So, yeah, the Chernobyl Forum really dropped the ball on this one, and Jaworowski, never a wallflower, was one of the more vocal critics who pointed out this shortcoming.

        2. Victor Ivanov has the following to say in a study co-authored with Elisabeth Cardis (a frequent collaborator of his) and others.

          “… because most radiation-related solid cancers continue to occur decades after exposure and because only 20 years have passed since the accident, it is too early to evaluate the full radiological impact of the accident” (from Abstract).

          A 25 year assessment and summary of the available (and limited in scope) epidemiology (having nothing to do with LNT) suggests the following:

          “It is now well documented that children and adolescents exposed to radioiodines from Chernobyl fallout have a sizeable dose-related increase in thyroid cancer, with the risk greatest in those youngest at exposure and with a suggestion that deficiency in stable iodine may increase the risk. Data on thyroid cancer risks to other age groups are somewhat less definitive. In addition, there have been reported increases in incidence and mortality from non-thyroid cancers and non-cancer end points. Although some studies are difficult to interpret because of methodological limitations, recent investigations of Chernobyl clean-up workers (‘liquidators’) have provided evidence of increased risks of leukaemia and other haematological malignancies and of cataracts, and suggestions of an increase in the risk of cardiovascular diseases, following low doses and low dose rates of radiation” (from Abstract).

          Direct download here (for now).

          New studies among the liquidators are the following: here (involving Ivanov) and here.

          “Both studies found similar results, with ERRs of 4.8/Gy (90% confidence interval: nd – 33.1) for all leukaemia in the Baltic country/Belarus/Russian study and 3.44/Gy (95% confidence interval: 0.47e9.78) in the Ukrainian study. Both studies also found similar risk estimates for chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL; a haematological malignancy type generally thought not to be related to radiation exposure) and for non-CLL leukaemia: the ERRs were, respectively, 4.7/Gy (90% confidence interval: nd – 76.1) for CLL and 5.0/Gy (90% confidence interval: <0e57.0) for non- CLL leukaemia in the Baltic country/Belarus/Russian study and 4.09 (95% confidence interval: <0e14.4) and 2.73 (95% confidence interval: <0e13.5), respectively, in the Ukrainian study. Although the ERRs/Gy for CLL are not statistically significantly elevated, this finding merits further study."

          Most of these more recent studies (incidence and mortality outcomes) and with longer follow-up are comparable or even higher han those "found for exposed adults among atomic bomb survivors."

          I can obviously go on with additional citations (and summaries) of other studies too. In fact, I find none (that would be zero) that suggest a hormetic dose response in epidemiology with exposed populations, liquidators, or otherwise (contrary to what is suggested by John Tjostem and Zbigniew Jaworowski). If they exist, it would be terrific to make mention of them here, and I have no doubt they would likely fall into the category mentioned above by Cardis and Ivanov (who have been very thorough in their review) of studies faced with "methodological limitations." But let's see. Statements by Jaworowski are unsupported by more recent research by Ivanov.

          1. Victor Ivanov is a mathematician, not a radiation health expert. His only contribution to understanding radiation health effects is his ability to use statistical analysis. In contrast Jaworowski’s education and professional experience is much more related to human health, physiology and radio carcinogenesis.

            You trust who you want to; I’ll stick with Jaworowski.

          2. Victor Ivanov has the following to say …

            EL – Cardis wrote the article. Don’t fool yourself.

            And yes, that’s always the epidemiologist’s standard line: we need more money to keep studying this. There are always diseases that have not yet manifested themselves. (Disclaimer: Part of my household income depends on continued funding of such research into cancer.)

            Anyhow, regular readers of this blog are already familiar with Cardis’s work, and some of the flaws in it.

            I can obviously go on with additional citations (and summaries) of other studies too.

            You mean other studies full of results are not statistically significant even at the (very weak) 95%CI level?

            Yes, you obviously seem to have a lot of free time on your hands.

            Unless you have some sort of personal stake in posting such stuff, please don’t bother wasting your time. I don’t think that the tolerance for enduring such weak tea is all that great here. The last thing this blog needs is to fill up its comments section with statistically irrelevant junk. That’s what epidemiology journals are for.

          3. Anyhow, regular readers of this blog are already familiar with Cardis’s work, and some of the flaws in it.

            @Brian Mays

            What flaws are those … fully documenting and accurately accounting for discrepancies in early Canadian dose records (which still don’t have an explanation and the basis of which are unresolved). I’m glad you remember the conversation, I just wish you have a better recollection of it (or accurate knowledge of the Cardis paper).

            And it seems utterly ridiculous to me that you are now trying to have it both ways. What is anybody supposed to think reading this thread. You brought up Ivanov, and suggested his study “was the most comprehensive followup on the consequences of the Chernobyl accident at the time (and possible still is for all know).” And you now call his work “weak tea” and “irrelevant junk.” What changed between 1:37 and 4:26 PM, did some alien circuit in your brain switch on? I find it appalling that anybody would trust your judgement on these things (when you can’t even make up your mind about one person’s work, much less an entire field of research that continues to develop with subsequent findings and more extensive follow-up).

            Ivanov’s qualifications seem pretty capable to me: Director of WHO Collaborating Center for Research and Training on Radiation Epidemiology (since 1995); Chairman of the Russian Scientific Commission on Radiological Protection (since 2010); Deputy Director of the Medical Radiological Research Center, Russian Ministry of Health and Social Development (1975 to Present), Head of the Russian National Medical and Dosimetric Registry, Editor-in-Chief of “Radiation and Risk” (Bulletin of the Russian National Medical and Dosimetry Registry), 255 scientific publications, 10 monographs, 17 textbooks, etc. (here, here, and here).

            1. @EL

              Ivanov’s qualifications seem pretty capable to me:

              Perhaps that is because outsiders have trouble understanding the difference between “qualifications” that include specific education and training plus evaluation by qualified observers and appointments in jobs that have a strong political component. People can point to Greg Jaczko’s resume and say that he appears to have excellent experience in nuclear safety matters, but the fact remains that he was a politician with no education, training or demonstrated understanding of the technology he was appointed to regulate.

          4. EL – See, this is how you hijack threads. First, you accuse me of something that I did not do. (It was Rod who brought up Ivanov’s qualifications, not me.) Then, you continue to beat a dead horse.

            Since you seem to have forgotten, the conclusions of Cardis’s nuclear workers study depend entirely on the Canadian group, and the Canadian researchers have since published that the data are flawed and have withdrawn them from the study. Since Cardis is no longer with IARC, there is really not much opportunity to withdraw the study or even amend it. Thus, its flawed conclusions will continue to be cited again and again, not only in the literature, but countless times by anonymous trolls all over the internet.

            What changed between 1:37 and 4:26 PM …

            You started citing papers with statistically insignificant results.

            Anyhow … the hijack now is over.

          5. @Brian Mays.

            You’re making inconsequential points again. The study needs no amending. The study includes two sets of results (those with the Canadian data and those without). And the researchers did not withdraw the data, they recommended it not be used until the basis for any discrepancies (or the original data sets) can be found.

            It was Rod who brought up Ivanov’s qualifications

            You brought up Ivanov, and I responded to your statement about his study, and Rod’s point about his qualifications. Is there something wrong with responding to two comments in a single post (especially when it follows both comments)?

            If you know longer want to talk about Chernobyl epidemiology (or stand behind your own statements) that is your choice. Hijacking was never an issue here.

          6. EL – Go hijack another thread, troll.

            @Brian Mays

            What does this have to do lead topic, Chernobyl cancer rates, summaries of epidemiology (by Cardis, Ivanov, Jaworowski, or anyone else mentioned in this thread), relevance to LNT (or atomic bomb survivors), hormesis, or any other substantive issues raised in the thread (discussed by myself or others).

            Do you have anything to say on these topics, or not? I am unclear why you are so adamant and rude in attempting to change the topic.

  2. I’m ready to be beat up for the dumb questions I’m going to ask about this one. Go ahead hit me.

    From the letter:
    “The continued application of the invalid linear dose– response model for cancer risk assessment raises enormous fear about the safety of exposures to small doses of radiation (and chemicals). Linking low radiation to a “risk of health effects” and the emergency measures to mitigate exposure to low radiation levels has caused and continues to cause many premature deaths and enormous psychological suffering of large populations who received small radiation exposures.”

    What are they referring to? They used data from Hiroshima. Are the premature deaths from psychological stress? Should the bomb survivors have been treated differently? Does this mean people should be returning to Fukushima? Wildlife has been thriving at Chernobyl. How about that one? I’ve seen the video about the old people having returned with no ill effects shown. Will decreased fear actually have a real effect on future licensing of new facilities?

    1. Cuttler is referring to the people forced to be displaced from Chernobyl and Fukushima. The atomic bomb victims have also been treated pretty poorly over the years by being ostracized and told that they are victims living on borrowed time. It’s possible that downwinders and other populations exposed to small doses have suffered undue stress as a result. I’ve heard there are still misinformed people who are taking iodine tablets in California to protect themselves from Fukushima-related radioactive material. That is dangerous behavior.

  3. As I recall from reading RERF’s account of their history in monitoring the Japanese A-bomb survivors, the issue with the “controls” in the early days (1950’s) was that the group were apparently people who came to Hiroshima following the war, to help with recovery and reconstruction: They were in general younger and healthier than the average Japanese population.
    Taking that effect into account, RERF concludes that the dose response is either linear or linear-quadratic, depending on which cancer type you look at.

    A quote from

    “The nonexposed group seems unsatisfactory as a control, at least for the period in question, since it is characterized by abnormally low mortality in relation to both the exposed survivors and the Japanese population generally. Deaths from tuberculosis and from cancer are notably deficient in the nonexposed group. There is some suggestion in the data that the nonexposed group is favored because of explicit or implicit previous medical screening (medical selection by the military, self-selection of migrants) and for cancer, at least, the differential seems much less important during the later years than during the early part of the follow-up period. For the present report, therefore, reliance has been placed on comparison of persons exposed at different distances from the hypocenter for the detection of radiation effects. It may be hoped that the influence of screening will diminish in future years, and that it will be possible to employ the nonexposed group as a valid control.”

    In other words, having rejected data for the out-of-towners, RERF’s results do not have a “zero-dose” control group, only a low-dose one from the population of Hiroshima (RERF’s graphs project down to zero, which they really shouldn’t be doing).

    The placement of the “zero-dose” point in Jerry’s graph is entirely responsible for the “J-curve” (odd to see a zero point on a logarithmic graph, by the way – besides the log scale distorting the shape of the line).

    There are other studies, unrelated to A-bombs, where the “zero-dose” point and radiation dose response relationship are fairly well established, with fewer confounding factors – or ones that are better accounted for.
    A-bomb survivor studies based on questionable data are not helpful.

  4. The book “Chernobyl Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment” claims, “From 112,000 to 125,000 liquidators died before 2005—that is, some 15% of the
    830,000 members of the Chernobyl cleanup teams.” To see if this is significant, we need to look at the expected death toll. The Russian death rate: 14.3/1000 per year. The clean up crews didn’t include elderly workers, which lowers the expected death toll number. The crews didn’t include pre-adults, which raises it back somewhat. The crews were pretty much all male, raising it more. But going with that number, the expected death toll in the 19 years (1986 to 2005) would be somewhere around 225,500. *Their* numbers (112,000 to 125,000) indicates don’t indicate an increased death toll among the clean up workers, in fact they suggest the precise opposite… hormesis. (This isn’t nuclear industry numbers, it’s anti-nuke numbers. It’s the best of anti-nuke numbers.)

  5. The incidence of secondary cancers in people treated with very high levels of radiation for the primary one also confuses the issue, as it can not be said that the radiation caused the secondary if the patient has a predisposition to cancer in the first place, or perhaps a lifestyle or habits such as alcohol consumption that have been shown to aid cancer growth by way of promoting angiogenesis to feed the cancer. Looking at this report, Secondary Cancers: Incidence, Risk Factors, and Management, it is evident that there are so many unknowns that it is very difficult to come up with a single strategy to apply to all patients. Perhaps even a full DNA analysis of each individual, once costs for such a proceedure allow for everyone to be ‘mapped’, may still not be able to predict outcomes with any certainty, but it still seems that for those diagnosed with malignancies, the chance of a secondary cancer, maybe many years down the road, is well worth the extra years of life.
    So, with low dose radiation, if it could be shown that some people may be more liable to a primary cancer from that radiation, in conjunction with familial, or lifestyle, or environmental factors, and even though studies show an overall decrease in the cancer rates of the general populatuon in areas with higher background levels of exposure, is it fair to say that we should increase the baseline safe exposure levels for all?

  6. Dr. Jerry Cuttler recently published a letter to the editor of the Archives of Toxicology …

    I’m not sure I understand Cuttler’s claim (or what literature he is citing to support it). Jerry Cuttler appears to have made the same mistake as others, using an assessment from 1958 (some 13 years after the bomb blast) as an end-point, and not a longer time frame and more extensive follow up with survivors in subsequent studies. No better example of limited review of the research (and cherry picking results) than this.

    Hypothesis of threshold at 0.5-Sv is rejected in most instances.

    Leukaemia is treated differently than solid cancers in LSS cohort (they aren’t assessed along the same dose-response curve). They have a different temporal pattern. It is really strange that Jerry Cuttler doesn’t know this?

    Shape of dose curve is still a pending issue (as well as the existence of non-linearities). This is well documented. “These data do not suggest a beneficial effect or the existence of a threshold dose below which there is no excess risk” (p. 37)

    This is a really sloppy and confusing letter. He makes reference to a Cuttler (2014) study that has yet to be published. Perhaps more details will be forthcoming in this soon to be published study.

  7. Even though the letter in the Archives of Toxicology was essentially a tribute to Dr. Calabrese, in an email message received today he declines to endorse the claim of hormesis in Hiroshima atomic bomb survivors:

    From: Edward
    Date: Sat, Feb 8, 2014 at 12:38 PM
    Subject: Re: Letter in the Archives of Toxicology about Hiroshima atomic bomb survivors
    To: Jaro Franta

    Dear Jaro:

    Thanks for your letter. My expertise is toxicology, where I have longed worked with animal models and cell cultures of one type or another, in search of better mechanistic understandings. My hormesis work rests principally based on laboratory research findings. Population studies, such as epidemiology, is not my area of professional expertise. I read it extensively but am not an expert in it. Thus, I would not offer myself as being sufficiently competent to offer professional expertise on the atomic bomb survivor studies.



    1. @Jaro

      Dr. Calabrese is doing exactly what a real expert does – carefully defining his area of expertise. Dr. Cuttler has pointed to Dr. Calabrese’s mechanistic results and applied them to larger population studies to attempt to understand what the statistical methods are actually showing.

      In all of this, I am just a reader, an interpreter and a popularizer, trying to bring interesting and meaningful research research results out of the dark hole of peer reviewed journals that are not readily available to the general public.

      One of the big issues for me is to remind as many people as possible that what a statistician calls “significant” is not what most of us think of when we determine if a risk or a reward is significant enough to influence our decision making.

      1. Very well put Rod.
        However, I fear that Jerry’s letter may end up being dismissed as an attempt to get radiation hormesis in humans into a legitimate scientific publication where it CANNOT be debated — simply because the toxicologists contributing to that journal are professionally bound to refuse to get involved in a debate that is outside their domain of expertise, as Dr. Calabrese underscores in his email.

        It will be interesting to see what, if any, reaction there is in future editions of the Archives of Toxicology: I suspect it will NOT be pretty.

        1. @Jaro

          You’ll have to explain this concept of why toxicologists would consider hormetic responses outside of their field of study. It doesn’t make sense on the face of it; why would they only want to study dose-response functions in the high-dose range? Is it that they don’t subscribe to the maxim: “The poison is in the dose”?

          1. As Dr. Calabrese says in his email, toxicologists study hormetic responses in “animal models and cell cultures”.
            They do not engage in “population studies, such as epidemiology.”

            A few well documented cases of hormesis, from many thousands of studies of dose responses indicative of hormesis using rigorous entry/evaluative criteria:

            • Effect of Methanol on Fruit Fly Longevity
            • Effect of Arsenite on Human Lymphocyte DNA Synthesis
            • Effect of Gamma rays on Mouse Malignant Tumors
            • Effect of Cadmium on Rat Testicular Cancer
            • Effect of Sodium Arsenate on PHA-Treated Bovine Lymphocytes
            • Effect of Penicillin on Bacterial Growth
            • Effect of X-Rays on Rat Mammary Carcinomas
            • Effect of MPCA on Shoot Growth
            • Effect of Gamma rays on Mouse Lung Adenomas
            • Effect of 2,4-D on Oyster Growth
            • Effect of Saccharin on Female Rat Tumors
            • Effect of Benzene on Oat Growth

          2. You’ll have to explain this concept of why toxicologists would consider hormetic responses outside of their field of study.

            @William Vaughn

            Isn’t it obvious. You might isolate a mechanism of action by looking at animal or cell level studies, but not fully understand its effect at biological or population level in humans. Comparing animal and human models is very challenging, and often involves different scales or endpoints (lifespan being a major one).

            Calebrese puts it this way:

            Even though hormesis is considered an adaptive response, the issue of beneficial/harmful effects should not be part of the definition of hormesis, but reserved to a subsequent evaluation of the biological and ecological context of the response.?

  8. 60 years later there is not even firm evidence of a low dose/cancer effect. In fact there is the opposite as well observed in these perpetual “fishing expedition” studies. There is no tested working theatrical mechanism in multicellular organisms. Again there is the opposite proposed in theory. There is no standing observed statistical confirmation of a relationship under isolated lab conditions. There is a more firm observation of the opposite here.

    Its past time to let it go. You cant just keep making a vague claim, jumping from vague study to vague (and proven faulty) studies hoping one day it might come true. Thats not a reasonable process. Over abundance of restrictive caution is not anything close to science or truth, and has not been proven “better” than anything else. As a matter of fact it is proven here to have lead to significant disaster on multiple scales far far beyond any radiation is even marginally legitimately accused of.

    1. Although no one probably even reads my rants let me just add this one bit:

      Cancer by definition, is a multicellular process. From the beginning modeling it on single cellular models and perfect radiation absorption scenarios was a mixed act of faith, wishful thinking, and erroneous oversimplification.

      Of course it seems very much more complicated now as the results of this line of thinking continuously fail to show progress.

      As the astronomers of the ptolemaic geocentric system continuously created and refined systems of epicycles to argue a reality that didn’t exist, this similarly epicyclic line of “reasoning” needs to end. It is wasting time and fostering needless hazard and pollution.

  9. A blast from the past:
    Nobel laureate Rosalyn Yalow June 13, 1988: Unwarranted Fear About The Effects Of Radiation Leads To Bad Science Policy

    Few issues have caused more fear and confusion than the question of the hazards of low-level radiation. There has been a remarkable failure to examine closely the evidence when discussing the issue and planning future studies. As a result, the public’s radiation phobia has been needlessly reinforced, and public money is being used on studies that are bound to be inconclusive.

  10. Because iodine is concentrated in the thyroid, especially iodine deficient thyroids, thyroid cancer deaths from radioactive iodine exposure were the result of high dose exposure to the thyroid, and have no place in this discussion.

    One would have to study only children in areas that received a tiny wiff of iodine to measure the effects of low dose to the thyroid.

    Since the radio-iodine has long since decayed away, it has no influence in the determination of long term exclusion zones.

  11. “Because iodine is concentrated in the thyroid, especially iodine deficient thyroids, thyroid cancer deaths from radioactive iodine exposure were the result of high dose exposure to the thyroid, and have no place in this discussion.”

    Question – I attended a radiation talk at a DOE facility long ago. The speaker had his thyroid removed. Yes, it was due to thyroid cancer. A quick web search on thyroid cancer gives a treatment option of having part or all of your thyroid removed. Some people are born without thyroids. They live. I certainly am not saying this as a positive thing, but why should there have been deaths due to thyroid cancer? The children near Chernobyl were in countries with medical programs that are said to be adequate. Why should they have died from thyroid cancer? Certainly, there should have been an enhanced awareness of this disease after the incident.

    1. “The children near Chernobyl were in countries with medical programs that are said to be adequate. Why should they have died from thyroid cancer? ”

      I don’t know the answer to your question specifically, but will mention that any time a person is put under anesthesia, there is a small but significant risk of fatality. IIRC, the numbers are something like 6000 cases of thyroid cancer and 10 – 15 deaths. Is that many deaths outside the number one would expect just from the anesthesia risk?

      Oh, a bit of searching reveals the risk from anesthesia is in the 4 – 15 per million range. So that’s probably not it by a factor of 160. Back to the hypothesizing board…

      1. I think they were screened with ultrasound as well. The Chernobyl cases could be a mix of high radiation and high screening effect. (I actually have read studies that have said as much)

        BTW with respect to FUKU this just came out in December:

        Thyroid Ultrasound Findings in Children from Three Japanese Prefectures: Aomori, Yamanashi and Nagasaki

        Overall, thyroid cysts were identified in 56.88% and thyroid nodules in 1.65% of the participants.

        There is even a mention of Chernobyl studies in it:

        In this project, 120,605 children were examined at five centers in three countries, and 63 cases with thyroid cancer (0.052%) were identified. Of note, 38 cases (0.192%) of thyroid cancer were identified in the Gomel region (Belarus), which was the area that was most contaminated by the accident. Also, this study revealed that 42,470 (35.9%) children showed increased thyroid volume (goiter), ranging from 18% to 54% in the five examination centers . This relatively high frequency of goiter reflected the iodine deficient status of this area during the study period
        (;jsessionid=AF9A25141E368E0ACAD11E82B8BF53E4#pone-0083220-g001 )

        II wonder if; the iodine deficient status not only made the high dose exposures worse but also probably was it a more severe problem over time that was leading to more hardship and disease than the high radiation itself ? The first seems to be confirmed in a few statistical Chernobyl studies at very very high doses. (cringe) Fortunately the severity and indeed the overall prevalence of cancer even in these areas was still surprisingly low. Over time the second question is probably more true by far. I have to say – Iodine deficiency is a very easy thing to fix. I really have to wonder how “concerned about the children” anyone could be if it was still such an issue in that area. Especially considering the costs of the radiation medical screenings.

        I did not even know iodine deficiency was such an issue still in the world.

        Iodine Deficiency Disorders (IDD) are one of the biggest worldwide public health problem of today. Their effect is hidden and profoundly affects the quality of human life. Iodine deficiency occurs when the soil is poor in iodine, causing a low concentration in food products and insufficient iodine intake in the population. When iodine requirements are not met, the thyroid may no longer be able to synthesize sufficient amounts of thyroid hormone. The resulting low-level of thyroid hormones in the blood is the principal factor responsible for the series of functional and developmental abnormalities, collectively referred to as IDD. Iodine deficiency is a significant cause of mental developmental problems in children, including implications on reproductive functions and lowering of IQ levels in school-aged children. The consequence of iodine deficiency during pregnancy is impaired synthesis of thyroid hormones by the mother and the foetus. An insufficient supply of thyroid hormones to the developing brain may result in mental retardation. Brain damage and irreversible mental retardation are the most important disorders induced by iodine deficiency. Daily consumption of salt fortified with iodine is a proven effective strategy for prevention of IDD. ( Health Consequences of Iodine Deficiency Umesh Kapil )

        Iodine deficiency disorder (IDD) is a serious public health threat for 2 billion people worldwide. It is the leading cause of mental development disorders in young children, from cretinism to more subtle degrees of impaired cognitive development which can lead to poor school performance and reduced work capacity in hundred of millions of children. It is implicated in still-birth, miscarriage, physical impairment and thyroid dysfunction. ( WHO )

        But back to radiation and the screening effect : all and all I am beginning to feel that even at moderately high doses the relationship with thyroid cancers has been vastly overstated.

        1. Darn, no italics on the last paragraph. Thats my opinion. Oph that was a lot longer post than I intended. Sorry folks.

      2. @Jeff : If you read the studies, you will see that some of the cancer had metastases and were fairly aggressive. And even with the most efficient treatments in the west, some thyroid cancers are fatal. Actually the increase in early detection in western countries has had little effect on the ultimate mortality.

  12. From Rosalyn Yalows paper from 1988 above:

    More evidence that low-level radiation is only a weak carcinogen comes from follow-up studies of patients receiving radionuclide therapy. By 1968, an estimated 200,000 people in the United States alone had been treated with radioactive iodine for hyperthyroidism, and the number has probably doubled since then. Yet a study of 36,000 hyperthyroid patients from 26 medical centers, of whom 22,000 were treated with 131 I and the remainder with surgery revealed no difference in the incidence of leukemia between the two groups.

    I anticipate that there might be more recent studies of this.

    1. “More evidence that low-level radiation is only a weak carcinogen” – I really think its very safe to say low-level radiation “is not a adequately theorized or proven sole factor in carcinogenesis and is looking less likely to be” and “may stimulate chemical pathways in some cells that can trigger anti cancer response mechanisms in organisms.”

  13. “So that’s probably not it by a factor of 160. Back to the hypothesizing board…”

    As this post began, there was mention of death due to psychological stress. Uprooting people from their homeland is stressful. This, coupled with the disease could have been too much for the children.

    1. The relationship between stress and disease is an old one. Apparently, recent research has uncovered a mechanism by which stress can aid the spread of cancer.

      Senior author Tsonwin Hai, a professor of molecular and cellular biochemistry at Ohio, says:

      “If your body does not help cancer cells, they cannot spread as far. So really, the rest of the cells in the body help cancer cells to move, to set up shop at distant sites. And one of the unifying themes here is stress.”

      Perhaps not proof that stress increases the risk of dying from cancer, but a strong indication IMO.

      Rather than low-dose radiation being the greatest risk faced by people exposed to it, perhaps it is the fear-mongering over such exposure by anti-nukes that is the greatest risk to exposed people. Perhaps anti-nukery is the biggest cause of nuclear accident related cancer. Perhaps anti-nukery causes just enough stress and stress-related cancer among an exposed population to compensate or overwhelm the beneficial effects of hormesis due to low-dose radiation. Studies into low-dose radiation cancer risk and hormesis should perhaps correct for confounding due to stress caused by rabid anti-nuclear fear mongering.

  14. The topic of this Atomic Insights post is one that was also covered by Ian Goddard some time ago, in his video posted here:

    This is the same Ian Goddard whose video is featured in the latest Atomic Insights post, “Mangano and Sherman take down”.

    I would be interested in seeing how you square the two videos, and the two different Atomic Insights posts — or whether in fact you don’t see a logical reason to do so, as I do.

    PS. FYI, I do believe that there is good evidence to support hormesis. I just don’t believe that evidence exists in the atomic bomb survivors cohort, as Goddard shows. There is widely recognized difference between instantaneous radiation exposure (bomb) and low dose-rate radiation exposure — which unfortunately Mr. Goddard fails to acknowledge in his video……

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