Former Fukushima director suffering from cancer

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EX director of Fukushima nuclear plant suffers from esophageal cancer

The former director of the Fukushima nuclear power plant has esophageal cancer. While the operator Tepco rules out a connection with the nuclear disaster earlier this year, speculation about an increased radiation dose as the cause of the cancer continues in the Japanese media.

At the end of November, the 56-year-old former director of the Fukushima nuclear power plant, Masao Yoshida, had left his post for health reasons. When he visited the destroyed facility on Friday, he spoke for the first time publicly about his illness. Yoshida apparently wanted to slow down the speculation about a possible connection of his illness with the nuclear catastrophe. According to operator Tepco, the former director is very concerned about "media speculation about his illness."

Nuclear director's cancer stirs up speculation Masao Yoshida's disease is the second cancer case of a Japanese celebrity that has come to light, and which suggests a connection with the released radioactivity. A few weeks ago, the cancer of the Japanese television presenter Norikazu Otsuka was reported, who reported locally as part of the nuclear disaster and demonstratively promoted the consumption of food from the contaminated regions or ate it in front of the camera. As soon as Otsuka's disease of acute lymphoblastic leukemia became known, rumors spread about a possible connection with the increased radioactive exposure. However, the media speculation cannot be proven. Because, according to the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) in Heidelberg, "FOCUS Online" is completely unclear whether the amount of radioactivity could have been sufficient to trigger acute leukemia. Even if radiation exposure was the cause of the moderator's cancer, according to the experts, this can hardly be proven.

Relationship Between Nuclear Disaster And Cancer? The ex-director of the nuclear power plant in Fukushima suspects a connection between his illness and the increased radiation exposure after the nuclear disaster is even closer than with TV presenter Otsuka. After the earthquake and tsunami on March 11th of this year and during the subsequent meltdown in several reactors, Masao Yoshida coordinated the clean-up work and repairs. The radiation exposure on site was enormous because large amounts of radioactivity were released when several fuel rods were melted. According to the operating company Tepco, a direct connection between cancer of the EX director and radiation exposure is “extremely unlikely”. First, according to Tepco, it is not clear whether the direct exposure to radioactive radiation triggers esophageal cancer at all. Second, the development of cancer would take at least five, and on average even ten, years to reach Masao Yoshida, a Tepco spokeswoman said, citing the testimony of doctors.

Yoshida himself, who has headed the Fukuschima nuclear power plant since June 2010, apparently tried to put an end to speculation about the connection between his cancer and radiation exposure after the nuclear disaster in his first public statement. According to Tepco, Yoshida wanted to concentrate on his treatment in peace, but in view of the media speculation, decided to openly deal with his illness in order to prevent further rumors. How the treatment of the former nuclear power plant director should look like and whether he had to be operated on, however, was not clear from the statements of the Tepco spokeswoman.

Radiation exposure as a possible trigger of cancer The public's trust in the statements of the operating company has been extremely limited since the nuclear disaster at the beginning of the year, since Tepco was also reluctant to publicize the actual situation in the wake of the reactor accident and often downplayed the extent of the disaster seemed. So there remain doubts about the cancer diseases of the TV presenter Otsuka and the former nuclear power plant director Yoshida. Many Japanese are convinced that a connection with radiation exposure is extremely likely here. The extraordinarily rapid development of cancer in this case raises some questions. For the development of esophageal cancer there is actually a growth phase of at least five years before it breaks out and even with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, such a rapid development would be extremely unusual or only explained by massive radiation exposure.

Even small amounts of radioactivity cause damage to the genome and corresponding tissue changes, but here the development of cancer would drag on for a significantly longer period. As the oncologist Alwin Krämer, head of the Clinical Cooperation Unit Molecular Hematology and Oncology at the DKFZ and Heidelberg University Hospital, told FOCUS Online, he is not aware of any case in the literature in which an ordinary cancer developed so quickly. However, leukemia can develop within eight months if there is considerable radiation exposure. In the past, such diseases of blood cancer have been observed, for example, in the treatment of cancer patients with chemotherapy and radiation therapy, the experts at the DKFZ explained. (fp)

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