ContextAlthough radiation exposure is an important predictor of thyroid cancer on diagnosis of a thyroid nodule, the relationship between childhood radiation exposure and thyroid nodules has not been comprehensively evaluated.
ObjectiveTo examine the association between internal I-131 thyroid dose and thyroid nodules in young adults exposed during childhood.
Design, setting, and participantsIn this cross-sectional study, we screened residents of Belarus aged ≤18 years at the time of the Chernobyl nuclear accident for thyroid disease (median age, 21 years) with thyroid palpation, ultrasonography, blood/urine analysis, and medical follow-up when appropriate. Eligible participants (N = 11,421) had intact thyroid glands and doses based on direct individual thyroid activity measurements.
Main outcome measuresExcess odds ratios per Gray (EOR/Gy, scaled at age 5 years at exposure) for any thyroid nodule and for nodules grouped by cytology/histology, diameter size, and singularity.
ResultsRisk of any thyroid nodule increased significantly with I-131 dose and, for a given dose, with younger age at exposure. The EOR/Gy (95% confidence intervals) for neoplastic nodules (3.82; 0.87 to 15.52) was significantly higher than for nonneoplastic nodules (0.32; <0.03 to 0.70) and did not vary by size; whereas the EOR/Gy for nonneoplastic nodules did vary by size (P = 0.02) and was 1.55 (0.36 to 5.46) for nodules ≥10 mm and 0.02 (<-0.02 to 0.70) for nodules <10 mm. EORs/Gy for single and multiple nodules were comparable.
ConclusionsChildhood exposure to internal I-131 is associated with increased risk of neoplastic thyroid nodules of any size and nonneoplastic nodules ≥10 mm.