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Conn Med. 2013 Apr;77(4):227-34.

Radiation exposure and breast cancer: lessons from Chernobyl.

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Division of Plastic Surgery, Department of Surgery, University of Connecticut School of Medicine, Farmington, CT, USA.


The lessons learned from the Chernobyl disaster have become increasingly important after the second anniversary of the Fukushima, Japan nuclear accident. Historically, data from the Chernobyl reactor accident 27 years ago demonstrated a strong correlation with thyroid cancer, but data on the radiation effects of Chernobyl on breast cancer incidence have remained inconclusive. We reviewed the published literature on the effects of the Chernobyl disaster on breast cancer incidence, using Medline and Scopus from the time of the accident to December of 2010. Our findings indicate limited data and statistical flaws. Other confounding factors, such as discrepancies in data collection, make interpretation of the results from the published literature difficult. Re-analyzing the data reveals that the incidence of breast cancer in Chernobyl-disaster-exposed women could be higher than previously thought. We have learned little of the consequences of radiation exposure at Chernobyl except for its effects on thyroid cancer incidence. Marking the 27th year after the Chernobyl event, this report sheds light on a specific, crucial and understudied aspect of the results of radiation from a gruesome nuclear power plant disaster.

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