Assessment of Differentiated Thyroid Carcinomas in French Polynesia after Atmospheric Nuclear Tests Performed by France - Institut de Recherche en Cancérologie de Montpellier Access content directly
Journal Articles JAMA Network Open Year : 2023

Assessment of Differentiated Thyroid Carcinomas in French Polynesia after Atmospheric Nuclear Tests Performed by France

Frédérique Rachédi
  • Function : Author
Sébastien Nunez
  • Function : Author
Axelle Leufroy
  • Function : Author
Laurent Noël
  • Function : Author
Thierry Guérin
Larys Shan
  • Function : Author
Frédérique Bost-Bezeaud
  • Function : Author
Patrice Petitdier
  • Function : Author
Gilles Soubiran
  • Function : Author
Françoise Doyon
  • Function : Author
Marc Taquet
  • Function : Author
Jacques Gardon
André C. Bouville
  • Function : Author
Vladimir V. Drozdovitch


Importance: Due to the amount of iodine 131 released in nuclear tests and its active uptake by the thyroid, differentiated thyroid carcinoma (DTC) is the most serious health risk for the population living near sites of nuclear tests. Whether low doses to the thyroid from nuclear fallout are associated with increased risk of thyroid cancer remains a controversial issue in medicine and public health, and a misunderstanding of this issue may be associated with overdiagnosis of DTCs. Design, Setting, and Participants: This case-control study was conducted by extending a case-control study published in 2010 that included DTCs diagnosed between 1984 and 2003 by adding DTCs diagnosed between 2004 and 2016 and improving the dose assessment methodology. Data on 41 atmospheric nuclear tests conducted by France between 1966 and 1974 in French Polynesia (FP) were assessed from original internal radiation-protection reports, which the French military declassified in 2013 and which included measurements in soil, air, water, milk, and food in all FP archipelagos. These original reports led to an upward reassessment of the nuclear fallout from the tests and a doubling of estimates of the mean thyroid radiation dose received by inhabitants from 2 mGy to nearly 5 mGy. Included patients were diagnosed from 1984 to 2016 with DTC at age 55 years or younger and were born in and resided in FP at diagnosis; 395 of 457 eligible cases were included, and up to 2 controls per case nearest by birthdate and matched on sex were identified from the FP birth registry. Data were analyzed from March 2019 through October 2021. Exposure: The radiation dose to the thyroid gland was estimated using recently declassified original radiation-protection service reports, meteorological reports, self-reported lifestyle information, and group interviews of key informants and female individuals who had children at the time of these tests. Main Outcomes and Measures: The lifetime risk of DTC based on Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation (BEIR) VII models was estimated. Results: A total of 395 DTC cases (336 females [85.1%]; mean [SD] age at end of follow-up, 43.6 [12.9] years) and 555 controls (473 females [85.2%]; mean [SD] age at end of follow-up, 42.3 [12.5] years) were included. No association was found between thyroid radiation dose received before age 15 years and risk of DTC (excess relative risk [ERR] per milligray, 0.04; 95% CI, -0.09 to 0.17; P =.27). When excluding unifocal noninvasive microcarcinomas, the dose response was significant (ERR per milligray, 0.09; 95% CI, -0.03 to 0.02; P =.02), but several incoherencies with the results of the initial study reduce the credibility of this result. The lifetime risk for the entire FP population was 29 cases of DTC (95% CI, 8-97 cases), or 2.3% (95% CI, 0.6%-7.7%) of 1524 sporadic DTC cases in this population. Conclusions and Relevance: This case-control study found that French nuclear tests were associated with an increase in lifetime risk of PTC in FP residents of 29 cases of PTC. This finding suggests that the number of thyroid cancer cases and the true order of magnitude of health outcomes associated with these nuclear tests were small, which may reassure populations of this Pacific territory..
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Dates and versions

hal-04106339 , version 1 (02-06-2023)





Florent de Vathaire, Monia Zidane, Constance Xhaard, Vincent Souchard, Sylvie Chevillard, et al.. Assessment of Differentiated Thyroid Carcinomas in French Polynesia after Atmospheric Nuclear Tests Performed by France. JAMA Network Open, 2023, 6 (5), ⟨10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.11908⟩. ⟨hal-04106339⟩
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