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Understanding the Link Between Radiation Exposure and Cancer Risk


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4/13/2011
Jeffrey H. Dover
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Our world is dependent on energy, and we need it to thrive as a global community. One of those forms of energy is derived from nuclear power, and the types of plants that harvest that power are becoming more and more common as time moves forward. There are inherent risks that come with nuclear power plants, including the potential for a meltdown and consequential radiation leaks, which is the problem facing several nuclear power plants in Japan following the recent devastation caused by an earthquake and tsunami.

When nuclear power plants are unable to cool down, total meltdowns can occur. Should this happen, there is the potential for a massive radiation leak into the atmosphere. When humans are exposed to radiation for prolonged periods of time, there can be dire consequences such as the threat of increased thyroid cancer risk.

According to the American Thyroid Association, some of the most important facts about thyroid cancer as it pertains to radiation exposure are:
  • The risk of thyroid cancer increases when thyroid cells absorb too much radioactive iodine
  • Babies and children under 18 are at the highest risk, since their cells are dividing rapidly
  • Adults at age 40 or older are at less risk

 

In addition to thyroid cancer, prolonged radiation exposure can also be linked to other cancers. According to the American Cancer Society, these include lung cancer, bone cancer, skin cancer and breast cancer. The type of cancer that is caused by radioactive poisoning is very dependent upon what part of the body was exposed to the radiation.

Despite these fears, nuclear power plants do little harm unless there is a radioactive leak. In fact, nuclear plants only account for approximately one one-hundredth of a percent of the radiation absorbed by the average American. According to the Nuclear Energy Institute, there are currently 104 nuclear power plants in operation in the United States. The majority of these are positioned on the eastern coast, where the threat of earthquakes and other natural disasters are much less than on the west coast.


Category: Failure to Diagnose Cancer


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