Thyroid Cancer Rates High in Philadelphia Area

January 22, 2010

Philadelphia Inquirer

Rates of thyroid cancer are well above the national average throughout the Philadelphia region. At a news conference Thursday, advocacy groups offered a possible explanation: proximity to nuclear power plants. In a Philadelphia Inquirer article, Susan Mandel, MD, MPH, a professor of medicine and radiology who cowrote the American Thyroid Association's current thyroid cancer treatment guidelines, noted that "it is a provacative paper," but a lot more work needs to be done. Thyroid-cancer rates have been increasing for years nationwide: sophisticated diagnostic techniques and increased exposure to radiation. The Penn Thyroid Center, which she co-directs, sees nearly 1.5 percent of the 38,000 or so patients diagnosed with the disease annually nationwide. To show an association -- not cause and effect, merely a correlation -- between nuclear plants and thyroid cancer would require a large study comparing rates in counties across the country with power plants and without, said Timothy Rebbeck, PhD, a professor of Biostatistics and Epidemiology and the associate director for Population Sciences in the Abramson Cancer Center. A good study should then compare many individuals with thyroid cance rto their exposure histories, Rebbeck said, determining, for example, whether they recently arrive din a country or had lived there for decades. Mandel was also quoted in the Philadelphia Daily News, noting that while "we do konw nuclear plants give off radioactive iodine [and] radioactive iodine can be associated with thyroid cancer," further investigation is required to see if those factors are causing the disease... read more