Authors: Demoury C, De Schutter H, Faes C, Carbonnelle S, Fierens S, Molenberghs G, Van Damme N, Van Bladel L, Van Nieuwenhuyse A, Vleminckx C
In Belgium, variations in thyroid cancer incidence were observed around the major nuclear sites. The present ecological study investigates whether there is an excess incidence of thyroid cancer among people living in the vicinity of the four nuclear sites at the smallest Belgian geographical level. Rate ratios were obtained from a Bayesian hierarchical model for areas of varying sizes around the nuclear sites. Focused hypothesis tests and generalized additive models were performed to test the hypothesis of a gradient in thyroid cancer incidence with increasing levels of surrogate exposures. No evidence was found for more incident cases of thyroid cancer near the two nuclear power plants. Regarding the two industrial and research nuclear sites, no evidence for a higher incidence in the vicinity of Mol-Dessel was observed, whereas a slightly nonsignificant higher incidence was found in the close vicinity of Fleurus. In addition, significant gradients for thyroid cancer incidence were observed with the different types of surrogate exposure considered in the 20 km area around the site of Fleurus (decreasing distance, increasing wind direction frequency and increasing exposure to estimated hypothetical radioactive discharges of iodine-131). In the investigation at the smallest Belgian geographical level, variations in thyroid cancer incidence were found around the Belgian nuclear sites. Significant exposure–response relationships were also observed for the site of Fleurus. Further investigations into these findings could be useful to allow inferring causal relationships on the origin of variations in incidence and to provide information at the individual level.
International Journal of Cancer