Post-Fukushima rise in cancer “unlikely” says UN

Japan’s Fukushima nuclear accident is unlikely to result in an increase in cancer among people exposed to radiation. That’s according to a new UN report which found cancer levels are […]

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By Vicky Ellis

Japan’s Fukushima nuclear accident is unlikely to result in an increase in cancer among people exposed to radiation.

That’s according to a new UN report which found cancer levels are likely to remain stable in the wake of the 11 March 2011 nuclear power accident.

The triple blowout of reactors led to the release of iodine-131 and caesium-137 into the atmosphere.

The Japanese people get radiation doses from naturally occurring sources of 2.1 millisieverts (mSv) a year on average. The UN estimates people in a 20km radius of the Fukushima Daiichi plant got less than 10 mSv before and during the evacuation and about half that level if they were evacuated early on 12 March.

Researchers expect no discernible changes in future cancer rates and hereditary diseases and no increases in the rates of birth defects.

Carl-Magnus Larsson, Chair of the atomic radiation research body UNSCEAR said: “People are rightly concerned about the impact on their health and their children’s health. Based on this assessment however, the Committee does not expect significant changes in future cancer statistics that could be attributed to radiation exposure from the accident.”

The report suggests the evacuation of local residents helped dampen this risk as well as much of the radiation being blown over the Pacific Ocean.

But it also notes that “theoretically” the risk of thyroid cancer among the group of children most exposed to radiation could increase. UNSCEAR said that the situation needs to be followed closely and checked in future. Thyroid cancer is a rare disease among young children and their normal risk is very low.

Previous research suggested 1,300 cancer deaths could be caused by the nuclear accident.