Adverse effects of iodine thyroid blocking: a systematic review

Radiat Prot Dosimetry. 2012 Jul;150(3):267-77. doi: 10.1093/rpd/ncr400. Epub 2011 Oct 20.


(131)I, when released in a radiological or nuclear accident as happened recently in Fukushima, Japan, may cause thyroid cancer as a long-term consequence. Iodine thyroid blocking (ITB) is known to reduce the risk of developing thyroid cancer. Potential adverse effects of ITB have not been systematically investigated so far. This article summarises the results of a review on adverse effects of ITB based on a systematic literature search in scientific medical databases. A meta-analysis was not performed as identified studies displayed major heterogeneity. The search resulted in 14 articles relevant to the topic, reporting mostly on surveys, ecological and intervention studies. Only one study from Poland focused on effects (both desired and adverse) of an ITB intervention following the Chernobyl accident. All other studies reported on iodine administration in a different context. Overall, the studies did not reveal severe adverse reactions to potassium iodide in the general public. Since ITB is a protective measure only applied in very specific circumstances, scientifically sound studies of adverse effects are scarce and consequently the evidence base is weak. The assessment of adverse effects of ITB relies on indirect evidence from related areas. This study may contribute to ongoing developments in pharmacoepidemiology aiming to better quantify adverse effects of medications and health care interventions including ITB.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Case-Control Studies
  • Humans
  • Potassium Iodide / adverse effects*
  • Review Literature as Topic
  • Thyroid Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / drug therapy*


  • Potassium Iodide