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China Daily Website

Nuclear link to thyroid cancer cases denied in Wuhan

Updated: 2013-02-22 21:04
By Zheng Jinran (

The health authority in Wuhan, Hubei province, has denied an allegation that a nuclear leak at a hospital caused thyroid cancer among several doctors.

Fang Zhouzi, a biochemist and popular scientific writer well known for his campaign against pseudoscience and fraud in China, released a letter from three gynecologists at Wuhan Union Hospital on Wednesday night.

It alleged they developed thyroid cancer due to exposure to radiation in two operating rooms, where X-ray machines had been used with inadequate protection measures for years.

The three, all females, have worked for a long time in a room immediately under the two operating rooms.

Investigations by the provincial health bureau following media coverage found the radiation level met the national standard. But Fang doubted this result, claiming the hospital hid several machines to fool investigators.

Apart from the three women, another four medics at the hospital have been diagnosed with the disease, the Beijing News reported.

Thyroid cancer is not a communicable disease, and ionizing radiation is the only confirmed cause.

A World Health Organization report in 2011 showed that exposure to radioactive iodine could increase the risk of thyroid cancer, as the substance tends to concentrate in the gland after being inhaled.

But other factors, including environmental pollution, heavy workload and mental pressure are also risk factors.

Last year, the incidence rate was 6.56 cases per 100,000 people, making it among the top 10 most common forms of cancer in China, according to the latest national cancer report from the National Central Cancer Registry under the Ministry of Health.

Women are at far higher risk than men, with an incidence rate of more than 10 per 100,000.