Risk of thyroid cancer among chernobyl liquidators

Radiat Res. 2012 Nov;178(5):425-36. doi: 10.1667/RR2975.1. Epub 2012 Sep 21.


After the Chernobyl accident in 1986, the "liquidators" or clean-up workers were among those who received the highest radiation doses to the thyroid from external radiation. Some were also exposed to radioiodines through inhalation or ingestion. A collaborative case-control study nested within cohorts of Belarusian, Russian and Baltic liquidators was conducted to evaluate the radiation-induced risk of thyroid cancer. The study included 107 cases and 423 controls. Individual doses to the thyroid from external radiation and from iodine-131 ((131)I) were estimated for each subject. Most subjects received low doses (median 69 mGy). A statistically significant dose-response relationship was found with total thyroid dose. The Excess Relative Risk (ERR) per 100 mGy was 0.38 [95% confidence interval (CI): 0.10, 1.09]. The risk estimates were similar when doses from (131)I and external radiation were considered separately, although for external radiation the ERR was not statistically significantly elevated. The ERR was similar for micro carcinomas and larger size tumors, and for tumors with and without lymph node involvement. Although recall bias and uncertainties in doses could have affected the magnitude of the risk estimates, the findings of this study contribute to a better characterization the risk of thyroid cancer after radiation exposure in adulthood.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Baltic States
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Chernobyl Nuclear Accident*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Radiation
  • Humans
  • Iodine Isotopes / toxicity*
  • Lymph Nodes / radiation effects
  • Neoplasms, Radiation-Induced* / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms, Radiation-Induced* / pathology
  • Occupational Exposure
  • Radioactive Hazard Release
  • Republic of Belarus
  • Risk Factors
  • Russia
  • Thyroid Neoplasms* / epidemiology
  • Thyroid Neoplasms* / pathology


  • Iodine Isotopes