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Researchers discover atomic bomb effect results in adult-onset thyroid cancer

PHILADELPHIA Radiation from the atomic bomb blasts in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in 1945, likely rearranged chromosomes in some survivors who later developed papillary thyroid cancer as adults, according to Japanese researchers.

In the September 1, 2008, issue of Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, the scientists report that subjects who lived close to the blast sites, were comparably young at the time, and developed the cancer quickly once they reached adulthood, were likely to have a chromosomal rearrangement known as RET/PTC that is not very frequent in adults who develop the disease.

"Recent in vitro and in vivo studies suggest that a single genetic event in the MAP kinase-signaling pathway may be sufficient for thyroid cell transformation and tumor development," said the study's lead author, Kiyohiro Hamatani, Ph.D., laboratory chief, Department of Radiobiology and Molecular Epidemiology at the Radiation Effects Research Foundation (RERF) in Hiroshima.

"Thyroid cancer is associated with exposure to external or internal ionizing radiation.Elucidation of mechanisms of radiation-induced cancer in humans, especially early steps and pathways, has potential implications for epidemiological risk analyses, early clinical diagnosis, and chemopreventive interventions," Hamatani said.

He adds that there are several irradiated populations worldwide that have been shown to have an increase in thyroid cancer, and that children exposed to radioactive fallout from the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident who develop papillary thyroid cancer have also been found to have RET/PTC rearrangements, although they are slightly different.

This study is part of the foundation's long running follow-up research on 120,000 atomic bomb survivors. During 1958 to 1998, the study found about 470 thyroid cancer cases of which the estimated number of excess cases attributable to radiatio

Contact: Jeremy Moore
American Association for Cancer Research

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