French Polynesians who were exposed to nuclear waste may be at risk for thyroid cancer

Researchers from the Institut Gustave Roussy in Paris recently announced that Polynesians who were exposed to fallout from France's atmospheric nuclear tests in the South Pacific face a low risk of developing thyroid cancer, the Associated Press reports. France carried out 41 atmospheric tests in French Polynesia between 1966 and 1975 before conducting all further blasts underground.

The report, which was led by Florent de Vathaire, compared 229 Polynesians who had been diagnosed with thyroid cancer by 2003 against 373 controls. They also estimated participants' radiation exposure, using fallout data provided by the French military.

The average radiation dose for individuals aged 15 or under at the time was 1.8 milligrays, which is a standard unit of radiation absorption. Among those who later developed a cancer, 5.2 percent were exposed to the relatively higher dose of 10 milligrays or more.

About 10 of the 229 cancers that were diagnosed before 2003 could be attributed to fallout, according to the study. An estimated 10 cases are likely to occur in the future.

The paper appears in the latest issue of the British Journal of Cancer.

Thyroid cancer is the fastest-growing cancer in the U.S., according to the American Cancer Society.
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