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Dr. Tsubokura's Radiation Lecture Vol.115

Author: Masaharu Tsubokura M.D., PhD.

Editors: Akihiko Ozaki M.D.,PhD., Yuki Senoo

229. The Number of Patients Is Not a Parameter for a Disaster’s Impacts

When researching the post–nuclear disaster public health situation in Fukushima, one may encounter many figures used to express whether the number of patients with certain illnesses has increased or decreased. While these figures enable us to comprehend the current circumstances at a glance, we must be aware of several things to understand what these figures represent.

The last article addressed how newly invented surgical methods and medical instruments, the revision of clinical guidelines, and the advancement of screening methods can increase patient numbers. The degree of increase brought by medical advancements is not just a small increase in the last digits; rather, they could increase the figure by several or even dozens of times compared to previous years.

Understandably, some people may think the recent increase in patient numbers is related to the radiation exposure when they read articles reporting that the number of patients has increased by X-fold since the nuclear disaster in 2011. However, the extent of the exposure dose determines the radiation’s health effects. From the tragedy that occurred in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and other places, we as researchers know the cutoff value at which level of radiation exposure could increase the number of patients with radiation exposure-related diseases.

The effects of radiation are determined by the dose of radiation received by individuals. Thus, the number of patients does not determine the impacts of the nuclear disaster. For these reasons, it is not a contradiction to conclude the investigations’ findings as follows: there has been an increase in the number of patients after the nuclear disaster in 2011, yet this is unlikely to be associated with the radiation exposure caused by the disaster

230. Cooperation with Neighbors and the Local Community for Health Management

The management of the health impacts of radiation exposure among people in the prefecture was a major health issue that required various types of screenings and countermeasures after the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident. However, as radiation exposure was minimized, it is now important to consider the health impacts of a nuclear disaster outside of the diseases directly caused by radiation exposure.

Apart from radiation exposure, changes in access to healthcare facilities had one of the strongest impacts on health. For example, if you found your family crouched down on the floor claiming that they had a splitting headache and felt very sick, you would either ask someone else for help or rush to the hospital. But what if that person were living alone? You would have much less chance to be able to help them.

Our previous research demonstrated that solitary breast cancer patients after the 2011 nuclear disaster tended to visit hospitals with slight delays and had more advanced stages of malignancy compared to patients living with someone. It could be said that the changes in the living environment after the disaster caused changes in patients’ behavior regarding how frequently and when they visit hospitals.

It is important for people in the local community to talk and interact with one another daily to look out for each other’s health.


The Japanese version of the manuscript was originally published in Fukushima Minyu, a local newspaper in Fukushima prefecture, Japan, 2th and 9th June 2019 was reproduced for MRIC Global under the author's permission.


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