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Endocr J. 1998 Apr;45(2):203-9.

Childhood thyroid cancer: comparison of Japan and Belarus.

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First Department of Internal Medicine, Nagasaki University School of Medicine, Japan.


The high incidence of childhood thyroid cancer in Belarus is suspected to be due to radiation exposure after the Chernobyl reactor accident. To clarify the clinical and histological characteristics of childhood thyroid cancer in Belarus, we therefore compared these patients to a radiation non-exposed control series in Japan. In Belarus, 26 thyroid cancers in subjects aged 15 or younger were diagnosed among 25,000 screened between 1991 and 1995 by Chernobyl-Sasakawa Health and Medical Cooperation Project. The clinical and morphologic features of these 26 cases were compared to 37 childhood thyroid cancers in Japan diagnosed between 1962 and 1995. The age distribution at operation in Belarus showed a peak at 10 years old, with a subsequent fall in numbers. In contrast, the age distribution at operation in Japan showed a smooth increase between the ages of 8 and 14. The mean tumor diameter was smaller in Belarus than that in Japan (1.4 +/- 0.7 vs. 4.1 +/- 1.7 cm, P < 0.001). The sex ratio, regional lymph node metastasis, extension to surrounding tissues or lung metastasis did not differ significantly. Histologically, all cases in Belarus were papillary and in Japan 33 cases were papillary and 4 cases were follicular carcinomas. Among papillary carcinomas, the frequency of a solid growth pattern, a criteria for classifying a tumor as poorly differentiated, was higher in Belarus than that in Japan (61.5 vs. 18.2%, P < 0.001). The difference between the features of childhood thyroid cancer in Japan and Belarus may be due to the difference in the process of carcinogenesis, but more direct evidence and further analysis by molecular epidemiology are needed in Belarussian cases.

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