The accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant on April 26, 1986, released approximately 2 EB1 of131 I and other radioiodine isotopes that heavily contaminated southern Belarus. An increase in thyroid cancer reported in 1992 and attributed to the Chernobyl accident was challenged as possibly the result of intensive screening. We began a case-control study to test the hypothesis that the Chernobyl accident caused the increase in thyroid cancer. Records of childhood thyroid cancer in the national therapy centers in Minsk in 1992 yielded 107 individuals with confirmed pathology diagnoses and available for interview. Pathways to diagnosis were (1) routine endocrinological screening in 63, (2) presentation with enlarged or nodular thyroid in 25 and (3) an incidental finding in 19. Two sets of controls were chosen, one matched on pathway to diagnosis, the other representing the area of heavy fallout, both matched on age, sex and rural/urban residence in 1986. The131 I dose to the thyroid was estimated from ground deposition of137 Cs, ground deposition of131 I, a data bank of 1986 thyroid radiation measurements, questionnaires and interviews. Highly significant differences were observed between cases and controls (both sets) with respect to dose. The differences persisted within pathway to diagnosis, gender, age and year of diagnosis, and level of iodine in the soil, and were most marked in the southern portion of the Gomel region. The case-control comparisons indicate a strong relationship between thyroid cancer and estimated radiation dose from the Chernobyl accident.

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