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Tohoku J Exp Med. 1999 Apr;187(4):363-75.

A progress report of the Marshall Islands nationwide thyroid study: an international cooperative scientific study.

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  • 1Department of Preventive Medicine and Health Promotion, Nagasaki University School of Medicine, Japan.


The objective of this report is to present a summary of progress of the Marshall Islands Nationwide Thyroid Study. As well known, the US atomic weapons testing program in the Pacific was conducted primarily between 1946 and 1958 in the Marshall Islands. The nuclear tests resulted in radioactive contamination of a number of atolls and resulted in exposure of Marshallese to undefined levels before our study. Little information has been paid to health consequences among residents of the nearly twenty inhibited atolls except for some information about nodular thyroid disease which was reported on by an US group. In a cooperative agreement with the Government of the Marshall Islands, between 1993 and 1997 we studied the prevalence of both thyroid nodules and thyroid cancer among 4766 Marshallese potentially exposed to radioiodines from bomb test fallout. That group represents more than 65% of the population at risk. We diagnosed 45 thyroid cancers and 1398 benign thyroid nodules. In addition, 23 study participants had been operated on prior to our study for thyroid cancer. Presently, we are developing a database of information to estimate radiation doses and planning a statistical analysis to determine if a dose-response relationship exists. These data will be important for the health promotion of exposed people all over the world including Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Semipalatinsk, Chernobyl and other locations. A timely completion is important for purpose of assisting Marshallese as well as to add the global understanding of radiation induced thyroid cancer.

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