Skip to main content

Thyroid cancer incidence in Chornobyl liquidators in Ukraine: SIR analysis, 1986–2010

Abstract

We studied thyroid cancer incidence in a cohort of 150,813 male Chornobyl clean-up workers (“liquidators”) from Ukraine by calculating standardized incidence ratio (SIR) using national cancer statistics. Follow-up began on the liquidator’s registration date with the Chornobyl State Registry of Ukraine (the earliest date was 05. 05. 1986) and continued through December 31, 2010, date of thyroid cancer diagnosis, date of death, or date of last known vital status, whichever came first. There were 196 incident thyroid cancers in the study cohort with an overall SIR of 3.50 [95 % confidence interval (CI) 3.04–4.03]. A significantly elevated SIR estimate of 3.86 (95 % CI 3.26–4.57) was observed for liquidators who had their first clean-up mission in the Chornobyl zone in 1986, when levels of external and internal exposure to radiation were highest; the SIR estimates for later calendar years of first clean-up mission, while significantly elevated, were lower. The SIR estimates were elevated throughout the entire follow-up period but were especially high 10–18 years after the accident: 4.62 (95 % CI 3.47–6.15) and 4.80 (95 % CI 3.78–6.10) for the period 1995–1999 and 2000–2004, respectively. Our findings support the growing evidence of increased thyroid cancer rates among Chornobyl liquidators. Although this could be partially attributed to increased medical surveillance, the observed pattern of SIR increase warrants further investigation of a potential contribution of radiation exposure to the elevated thyroid cancer rates in this large population.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Abbreviations

AHS:

Adult health study

CI:

Confidence interval

ERR:

Excess relative risk

Gy:

Gray

PYR:

Person-year

PIR:

Proportional incidence ratio

SIR:

Standardized incidence ratio

CSRU:

Chornobyl State Registry of Ukraine

UNCR:

Ukrainian National Cancer Registry

References

  1. 1.

    United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR). Sources and effects of ionizing radiation: United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation: UNSCEAR report to the general assembly, with scientific annexes. New York: United Nations; 2008. p. 2010.

    Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Ivanov VK, Chekin SY, Kashcheev VV, Maksioutov MA, Tumanov KA. Risk of thyroid cancer among Chernobyl emergency workers of Russia. Radiat Environ Biophys. 2008;47(4):463–7. doi:10.1007/s00411-008-0177-9.

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Prysyazhnyuk A, Gristchenko V, Fedorenko Z, et al. Twenty years after the Chernobyl accident: solid cancer incidence in various groups of the Ukrainian population. Radiat Environ Biophys. 2007;46(1):43–51. doi:10.1007/s00411-007-0093-4.

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Rahu M, Rahu K, Auvinen A, et al. Cancer risk among Chernobyl cleanup workers in Estonia and Latvia, 1986–1998. Int J Cancer. 2006;119(1):162–8. doi:10.1002/ijc.21733.

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Kesminiene A, Evrard AS, Ivanov VK, et al. Risk of thyroid cancer among Chernobyl liquidators. Radiat Res. 2012;178(5):425–36. doi:10.1667/RR2975.1.

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Romanenko AE, Gudzenko NA, Bebeshko VG, et al. Informative value of the specialized registers in research of leukemia in Chernobyl accident liquidators in Ukraine. Lik Sprava. 2006;4:15–20.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Howe GR. Use of computerized record linkage in cohort studies. Epidemiol Rev. 1998;20(1):112–21.

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Preston DL, Lubin JH, Pierce DA, McConney ME. Epicure user’s guide. Seattle, WA: Hirosoft International Corp; 1993.

    Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Ron E, Schneider A. Thyroid cancer. In: Schottenfeld D, Fraumeni J, editors. Cancer epidemiology and prevention. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2006. p. 975–94.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Rahu K, Hakulinen T, Smailyte G, et al. Site-specific cancer risk in the Baltic cohort of Chernobyl cleanup workers, 1986–2007. Eur J Cancer. 2013;49(13):2926–33. doi:10.1016/j.ejca.2013.04.014.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Ron E, Lubin JH, Shore RE, et al. Thyroid cancer after exposure to external radiation: a pooled analysis of seven studies. Radiat Res. 1995;141(3):259–77.

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Kim H, Kriebel D. Regression models for public health surveillance data: a simulation study. Occup Environ Med. 2009;66(11):733–9. doi:10.1136/oem.2008.042887.

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Tronko MD, Howe GR, Bogdanova TI, et al. A cohort study of thyroid cancer and other thyroid diseases after the Chornobyl accident: thyroid cancer in Ukraine detected during first screening. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2006;98(13):897–903. doi:10.1093/jnci/djj244.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Brenner AV, Tronko MD, Hatch M, et al. I-131 dose-response for incident thyroid cancers in Ukraine related to the Chornobyl accident. Environ Health Perspect. 2011;119(7):933–9. doi:10.1289/ehp.1002674.

    CAS  PubMed Central  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Zablotska LB, Ron E, Rozhko AV, et al. Thyroid cancer risk in Belarus among children and adolescents exposed to radioiodine after the Chornobyl accident. Br J Cancer. 2011;104(1):181–7. doi:10.1038/sj.bjc.6605967.

    CAS  PubMed Central  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Lubin JH. The potential for bias in Cohen’s ecological analysis of lung cancer and residential radon. J Radiol Prot. 2002;22(2):141–8.

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    UNSCEAR. Report—effects of ionizing radiation: report to the general assembly/scientific annexes A and B. New York: UNSCEAR; 2006 2008.

    Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Muirhead CR, O’Hagan JA, Haylock RG, et al. Mortality and cancer incidence following occupational radiation exposure: third analysis of the national registry for radiation workers. Br J Cancer. 2009;100(1):206–12. doi:10.1038/sj.bjc.6604825.

    CAS  PubMed Central  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Sont WN, Zielinski JM, Ashmore JP, et al. First analysis of cancer incidence and occupational radiation exposure based on the national dose registry of Canada. Am J Epidemiol. 2001;153(4):309–18.

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Wang JX, Zhang LA, Li BX, et al. Cancer incidence and risk estimation among medical X-ray workers in China, 1950–1995. Health Phys. 2002;82(4):455–66.

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  21. 21.

    Furukawa K, Preston D, Funamoto S, et al. Long-term trend of thyroid cancer risk among Japanese atomic-bomb survivors: 60 years after exposure. Int J Cancer. 2013;132(5):1222–6. doi:10.1002/ijc.27749.

    CAS  PubMed Central  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

This research was supported by the Intramural Research Program of the NIH, National Cancer Institute (USA). We acknowledge the contribution of Zoya Fedorenko (Ukrainian National Cancer Register, Ukraine), Nataliya Babkina and Nataliya Trotsiuk (National Research Center for Radiation Medicine, Ukraine) to the study execution. We thank Anatoliy Romanenko, Vadim Chumak, Yuriy Belyayev (National Research Center for Radiation Medicine, Ukraine) and Vladimir Drozdovitch (National Cancer Institute, USA) for helpful discussions of study results.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Evgenia Ostroumova.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Ostroumova, E., Gudzenko, N., Brenner, A. et al. Thyroid cancer incidence in Chornobyl liquidators in Ukraine: SIR analysis, 1986–2010. Eur J Epidemiol 29, 337–342 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10654-014-9896-1

Download citation

Keywords

  • Thyroid cancer
  • Liquidators
  • Clean-up workers
  • Chornobyl
  • Chernobyl
  • Ukraine