Feature

Epidemic of fear

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Science  04 Mar 2016:
Vol. 351, Issue 6277, pp. 1022-1023
DOI: 10.1126/science.351.6277.1022

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  • RE: Epidemic of Fear
    • Toshihide Tsuda, Professor of Environmental Epidemiology, Graduate School of Environmental Life Sciences, Okayama University

    Dear Editor,

    “Epidemic of Fear” [1] by Dennis Normile in the March 4, 2016 issue of Science abounds with too many inaccuracies to cover in 300 words: using “incidence rate” instead of “prevalence,” and stating Fukushima residents were offered iodine tablets (in reality only offered to some residents and medical/emergency workers).

    Most critically, he incorrectly understands what was addressed by “adjusting the number of cancer cases to account for the lag time between when an ultrasound examination would catch the cancers and when they could be clinically identified.” It wasn’t to address the screening effect but to account for the length of time elapsed before the screening in order to correct for underestimation: the resultant latency-adjusted prevalence odds ratios shown in Table of our response [2] reveals a dose-response relationship.

    Regrettably, my overseas business trip pre-empted clarification of some issues before publication. Normile’s obvious lack of understanding of our response led him to conclude we “did not address other criticisms.”

    Criticisms from Wakeford et al [3]. and Takamura [4], are answered in our response as best as possible with an 800-word limit to cover all seven letters. To the criticism of improper comparison between screening and cancer registry data, our e-Appendix explains how to translate prevalence to incidence. A small sample size makes comparison with the study of 4365 children in three other prefectures...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.
  • RE: What can be opposed to «epidemic of fear»
    • Andrey L. Ostanin, The developer, head of research projects, president of SPS "Fertility & Ecology", Scientific Production System "Fertility & Ecology"

    Andrey L. Ostanin1,*
    (1) Scientific Production System “Fertility & Ecology”
    * Email: fertility.ecology@gmail.com

    Which feelings are evoked by Epidemic of Fear by Dennis Normile, published in Science in March 04, 2016? The first one is that this world is not entirely hopeless. It is wonderful, that «Fukushima Prefecture launched a health monitoring program to assure residents and quickly identify any health problems that might result from the accident». Japanese authorities are not indifferent to the fate of people caught up against their will in a situation of mortal risk. Secondly, it is not just words, but there are some specific steps taken: «As part of this program the prefecture is offering ultrasound thyroid examinations for all those aged 18 or younger at the time of the accident». Nevertheless, some questions can be raised here. What about the older generation, which spared the program? And what are those diagnosed with thyroid growths or cancer, supposed to do next? Unfortunately, medicine has not yet learned how to effectively cope with oncological problems. According to the boldest American sources, effectiveness of this fight does not exceed 7%, giving 93% to failure. Is it really so? Probably not. There is a ray of light in the realm of darkness. That is immunotherapy. According to Science, the year 2014 was a “breakthrough” in immunological research achievements. In July 21, 2015 the L...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.
  • RE: Thyroid Cancer in Fukushima - The necessity of accurate interpretation
    • Shunichi Yamashita, Professor, Atomic Bomb Disease Institute, Nagasaki University
    • Other Contributors:
      • Vladimir Saenko, Associate Professor, Atomic Bomb Disease Institute, Nagasaki University

    The article by D. Normile marks the 5-year time point since the Great East Japan Earthquake in March, 2011 and the subsequent Fukushima nuclear disaster. As a mean of recovery, the large-scale Fukushima Health Management Survey has been undertaken to meet Fukushima residents’, and local, prefectural and central authorities’ urgent requests.
    The recently completed first round of Thyroid Ultrasound Examination, which is a part of Fukushima Health Management Survey, has examined 300,476 children out of 367,685 aged 0-18 years at the time of accident, from October 2011 through June 2015. The results gained rapt attention because of a high detection rate of childhood and adolescent thyroid cancer (0.038%), and of other, not health-threatening thyroid abnormalities. Despite accumulating data attest to very low radiation dose estimates that cannot be expected to increase the risk for thyroid cancer even in young individuals, the fear of the second coming of Chernobyl exaggerates wrong interpretations, rightfully evoking numerous critical scientific comments.
    In contrast, potential “overdiagnosis” using sophisticated ultrasound examination, and “overtreatment” in Fukushima is pointed out, analogous to a high frequency of thyroid cancer in adults, which is one of representative health problems in the Republic of Korea. As an example, a recent thyroid ultrasound screening study in three not exposed to radiation prefectures of Japan demonstrated thyroid cancer detecti...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.