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36% of Fukushima children have abnormal thyroid growths: study

Children from area near nuclear plant reportedly have high incidence of thyroid growths. Authorities unsure if due to radiation.

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A South Korean boy plays with nuclear bomb is exhibits during a rally held to commemorate the Fukushima nuclear disaster on the eve of the one year anniversary of Japan's earthquake and tsunami on March 10, 2012 in Seoul, South Korea. (Chung Sung-Jun/AFP/Getty Images)

Are Japanese children experiencing medical problems from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear reactor meltdown?

According to the Telegraph, the answer could be yes: the UK paper reported that 36 percent of Fukushima Prefecture children have abnormal growths on their thyroid.

The sixth report of the Fukushima Prefecture Health Management Survey, which was released in April, first revealed the disturbing figures to world audiences, after the survey examined 38,114 local children. 

According to the Telegraph, 13,460 children (35.3%) had thyroid cysts or nodules up to 0.197 inches long growing on their thyroids. 0.5% of the children had growths larger than 0.197 inches. 

Read more: English version of the Sixth Report of Fukushima Prefecture Health Management Survey may be found here. 

Authorities who administered the test advised caution about the results to Telegraph reporters:

"Yes, 35.8 percent of children in the study have lumps or cysts, but this is not the same as cancer," Naomi Takagi, associate professor at Fukushima University Medical school, told the Telegraph. 

More from GlobalPost: Japan to give radiation meters to children living near Fukushima plant

"We do not know that cause of this, but it is hard to believe that is due to the effects of radiation," Takagi added. "This is an early test and we will only see the effects of radiation exposure after four or five years."

It's well-known that radiation releases can have a particularly adverse effect on the human thyroid.

According to the American Thyroid Association, thyroid problems from nuclear events occur when radioactive iodine is leaked into the atmosphere. Thyroid cells that absorb too much of this radioactive iodine may become cancerous.

The ATA reports adds that thyroid cancer "seems to be the only cancer whose incidence rises after a radioactive iodine release."

The ATA also reports that babies and children at highest risk. 

An independent National Institute of Radiological Sciences study found "lifetime thyroid doses of radiation in Fukushima children," reported the Asahi Shimbun earlier this month. 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/japan/120720/36-fukushima-japan-children-have-abnormal-thyroid-gr