September 2005 -
After the Fallout: Lessons learned from Chernobyl could save victioms of future nuclear disasters. The world looks to Scott Davis for many of the answers. Story by Brad Broberg

A Curable Cancer—If Caught in Time

What Scott Davis has learned in Russia—that people exposed to radiation from Chernobyl as children are at greater risk of developing thyroid cancer depending upon their level of exposure—is significant but not entirely surprising.

Previous studies in the U.S. have shown that a history of head or neck radiation treatments in childhood—a not uncommon therapy for certain conditions in the 1950s—represents a major risk. While thyroid cancer rarely occurs during childhood, children are more vulnerable to the long-term effects of radiation than adults and are prone to develop thyroid cancer later in life if exposed at an early age. Other risk factors include a diet low in iodine and certain inherited conditions.

Although the late Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist’s case made headlines, thyroid cancer is a relatively rare disease, accounting for only 1 percent of all cancers. According to the American Cancer Society, 25,690 new cases of thyroid cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. this year. Although an estimated 1,490 Americans will die of thyroid cancer in 2005, most forms of the disease are highly treatable through a combination of surgery, radioactive iodine treatment, thyroid hormone therapy, external beam radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the front of the neck. The gland takes up iodine from the diet and the blood and makes a hormone important for many bodily functions. Symptoms of thyroid cancer include swelling, hoarseness, difficulty swallowing and coughing accompanied by bleeding.

— Brad Broberg

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Sidebar: A Curable Caner—If Caught In Time