Tuesday, 9 September 2014

16% deaths at atomic energy centres due to cancer, says DAE

Mumbai: Cancer was responsible for 16% deaths among Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) employees between January 2010 and April 2014, said epidemiologists from the DAE-run Tata Memorial Hospital, Parel, on Tuesday. They said the figure was similar to cancer death rates in urban India.

The experts said this while repudiating RTI-based information showing a high incidence of cancer-related deaths in India's nuclear research centres over the last two decades. Tata Memorial Centre (TMC) director Dr Rajendra Badwe said, "Information showing cancer causing almost 70% of the 3,887 deaths caused by ailment in workers of atomic energy hubs over 20 years appears unusually high and likely to be factually incorrect.'' He said the Tata team wanted to allay fears and concerns raised among DAE workers and the general public at large.

The team analyzed data from DAE centres between January 2010 and April 2014 and found 16% cancer deaths among employees. "The actual cancer deaths are likely to be lower. This RTI information pertained to DAE hospital-based deaths. And, hospital-based death registration is known to show erroneous, inflated rates as compared to population-based data,'' the director added.

TMC conducted the Million Death Study, published in the medical journal Lancet in March 2012, revealing that 7% deaths in all age groups in India could be attributed to cancer.

The Tata doctors found similar results in a study among 22,224 DAE workers and their families at three major Indian nuclear installations (Tarapur, Kaiga and Kakrapar) between 1981 and 2012. "The study found 252 cancer cases, accounting for 0.29% point prevalence of cancer. This is consistent with the national average of 0.23%,'' said Dr Badwe, adding that cancer accounted for only 9% of all deaths in this population with a majority likely to be in relatives rather than employees.

In another cancer surveillance study, DAE doctors looked at the cancer burden among the population residing around eight nuclear installations around the country, including Rawatbhata, Karwar, Kalpakkam and Kudankulam. "This revealed a crude incidence rate of cancer in the range of 28.7 to 87.4 per 100,000 persons. This compares favourably with the national average rates of 78.8 per 100,000 reported by the Indian Council of Medical Research-led National Cancer Registry programme (25 registries) and crude cancer incidence estimate of 80.7 per 100,000, as reported by the Globocan project of the International Agency for Cancer in Lyon, France,'' said Dr Badwe.

The Tata doctors said internationally too, there was no data to link radiation, nuclear power plant staff and cancer-related deaths.


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