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View Diary: Was Fukushima inevitable? (35 comments)

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  •  There's another issue (0+ / 0-)

    Consider this: over their lifetime, the average person has about a 1 in 3 chance of having some form of cancer. Many of them never find this out: they die of something else first, or it's benign tumor, or it's so minor it's never discovered.

    Now what happens if you subject a population to intense screening for cancer due to, let's say, possible radiation exposure? Your cancer rates for that population are going to go up, not due to more people getting cancer but because more people are detected having cancer earlier than they otherwise would have (if at all).

    Also, ironically, deaths due to cancer are very likely to go down. Why? because that intense cancer screening is going to find tumors that would be fatal early enough to treat them more successfully.

    This is exactly what happened after Chernobyl. In that case, there was possibly a small, legitimate spike of cancer in the vicinity among the civilian population due to radiation release in addition to the increase in cancers that would otherwise not have been detected, but the survival rates for people with detectable cancers actually increased because they were detected early due to the intense medical monitoring.

    One of the problems with getting good stats on radiation exposure and deaths is due to this: separating out the cancer rates that one would expect to see without the exposure, and then factoring in how many people were actually saved because testing them revealed pre-existing problems that had nothing to do with the exposure.

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