Vladimir Parshin, M.D. Ph.D.
Professor of the Medical Radiological Research Center, Obninsk, Russia
Visiting Professor of Nagasaki University
The accident at Fukushima nuclear power plant has drawn particular attention of Russian scientists to potential health problems of population living in areas contaminated with radionuclides.
On July 21-24 2012 I had an opportunity to visit Fukushima as a member of a group from Russia and Belarus. We learned about Fukushima Medical University, attended a training course for Japanese physicians in neck ultrasound, inspected the east ocean coast around Minamisoma city from which the flooding waves of tsunami devastated wide areas and then I took part in a press conference for mass media.
Here are some details about myself. I live in Russia and work in Medical Radiological Research Center located in the city of Obninsk. Our center renders highly specialized medical aid to the population of Russia living in the areas contaminated with radionuclides after the accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant which happened on April 26, 1986.
I am working in the medical field for 39 years. Over the past 30 years I have been dealing with problems of ultrasound diagnosis of thyroid diseases. Since May 1986 I am conducting medical examinations in Chernobyl and control areas. We have primarily been paying attention at the state of the thyroid because after the Chernobyl accident radioactive iodine was released into the environment and deposited in the soil. Since the thyroid is the only gland in the body that specifically absorbs iodine which is essential for its proper functioning, the radioactive iodine accumulates in it tens or hundreds times more intensively than in other parts of the human body.
During the last 25 years, I have examined more than 500 thousand people including children, teenagers and adults. I wrote and published three books on ultrasound diagnostics of thyroid diseases together with Prof. S.Yamashita. I was in Japan 12 times visiting Tokyo, Kobe, Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Tsukuba to learn about health problems among survivors of the atomic bombings. I have been taking part in a number of International Programs to estimate human radiation effects and especially thyroid effects. A number of projects were carried out in collaboration with the IAEA, World Health Organization, Sasakawa Memorial Health Foundation and others.
After the Chernobyl accident, radioactive fallout affected territories of Russia. The four main contaminated areas are Kaluga, Tula, Bryansk and Orel Regions where over 5 million people live. Studies performed over the past 25 years showed that the major health effect of the Chernobyl accident has been the dramatic increase in thyroid cancer among children and adults in Russia. In 1986-1990, the number of cancers did not exceed the pre-accident level. By contrast, in 1991-1995 the incidence of thyroid cancer increased three times.
Here are some of my reflections of the visit to Fukushima.
University Clinic. I am deeply impressed by the quality of care it offers – many specialities under one roof and such an enthusiasm and dedication. The Clinic and operating room are equipped with all necessary modern devices to provide surgical treatment of thyroid diseases. High technology equipment meets all requirements for excellent surgery.
Coast. After visiting the ocean side from where tsunami struck, I was convinced that the forces of nature are enormous. How much of power is needed to struggle against such natural disasters: partially destroyed dam, destroyed buildings, holes instead of building bases? What a pity that this disaster had happened!
Training course. The training course on diagnostic ultrasound was conducted by University staff under direction of Professor S.Suzuki at a very high professional level. Advanced diagnostic ultrasound equipment is used to detect early signs of nodular formations including early stages of thyroid cancer. Since 1987, I have conducted six similar training courses for Russian sonologists. The duration of each training course was five days. We invited professors from our Medical Radiological Research Center and scientists from Moscow to deliver lectures. The training course in Japan lasted one day. Nevertheless, not only the University staff but also scientists from Tokyo and Kobe attended that seminar.
Public trust. Inviting instructors and experts from other medical centers of Japan and international scientific organizations would be the most proper way to use not only own internal resources, but also the international experience in mitigating medical consequences after similar accidents, especially after Chernobyl. These activities are headed by Professor S. Yamashita with whom I have worked in this area since 1991. Professor S. Yamashita worked for many years organizing medical centers to examine children and teenagers living in contaminated areas in Russia and other countries.
I wish all people of Fukushima good health and well-being.