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Childhood cancer incidence around Dounreay and Sellafield

Childhood leukaemia is rare, affecting approximately 500 children every year in the UK.  There have been numerous studies and reports on the possible risks of childhood leukaemia in the vicinity of nuclear installations and there are acknowledged historical clusters of childhood leukaemia around both Sellafield and Dounreay nuclear sites.  Recent reports of raised thyroid cancer incidence following reactor accidents in other countries have led to increased interest in the possible consequences of the 1957 Windscale fire.

The Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment (COMARE) is publishing its 17th report, ‘Further consideration of the incidence of cancers around the nuclear installations at Sellafield and Dounreay’ – a comprehensive review of the incidence of leukaemia, non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) and other cancers among young people around the Sellafield and Dounreay nuclear installations, updating its previous work. COMARE is a Department of Health Expert Committee providing independent advice to all government departments and agencies.

Journalists came along to the Science Media Centre to find out:

  • Can radiation exposure explain the historical clusters of childhood cancer?
  • What other factors may have played a role?
  • What can we say about thyroid cancer in Cumbria?
  • What recommendations are being made for further investigations?



Prof. Alex Elliott, Past-Chairman of the Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment (COMARE)

Dr Chris Gibson, Chairman of the Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment (COMARE)

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