Journal of the Scientific Society

: 2018  |  Volume : 45  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 1--2

Cancer incidence around Karwar (Kaiga Nuclear plant) needs further research rather than spread false information

RB Nerli1, Shridhar C Ghagane2,  
1 Department of Urology, JN Medical College, KLE Academy of Higher Education and Research (Deemed-to-be-University), JNMC Campus, Belgaum; KLES Kidney Foundation, KLES Dr. Prabhakar Kore Hospital and Medical Research Centre, Belagavi, Karnataka, India
2 Department of Urology, KLES Kidney Foundation, KLES Dr. Prabhakar Kore Hospital and Medical Research Centre, Belagavi, Karnataka, India

Correspondence Address:
R B Nerli
Department of Urology, JN Medical College, KLE Academy of Higher Education and Research, JNMC Campus, Nehru Nagar, Belagavi - 590 010, Karnataka

How to cite this article:
Nerli R B, Ghagane SC. Cancer incidence around Karwar (Kaiga Nuclear plant) needs further research rather than spread false information.J Sci Soc 2018;45:1-2

How to cite this URL:
Nerli R B, Ghagane SC. Cancer incidence around Karwar (Kaiga Nuclear plant) needs further research rather than spread false information. J Sci Soc [serial online] 2018 [cited 2019 May 26 ];45:1-2
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Full Text

A newspaper article[1] appeared in the Indian Express dated June 21, 2018, wherein it was noted that Tata memorial center had found that the number of cancer cases in Karwar taluk, where Kaiga Atomic Power Station is located, had increased by 200% over a period of 3 years. This study was conducted during 2010–2013 by a team of the Mumbai-based center which published the results in March this year. The team further reported that there were about 70–80 cancer patients in Karwar taluk before 2010. However, this number increased to 316 during the period 2010–2013. These data were collected from 30 hospitals all over the country – accounting for 129 men and 187 women. In men, lung, mouth, esophagus, tongue, and hypopharynx cancer were the sites of these cancers, while in the women, breast cancer was the most common site (19.6%), followed by cervix uteri, ovary, esophagus, mouth, thyroid, and corpus uteri. The study further also stated that the cancer rate in Karwar was much lower when compared to International Cancer Registries of Shanghai (China), Osaka (Japan), Finland, Oxford (UK), the United States, and Haut-Rhin (France) which are also sites of atomic nuclear plants.

Environmentalists have blamed the radiation from the plant as the cause of this increased incidence of cancer, and this has increased the apprehension among the residents staying in that area. One needs to look into this data carefully as this could create panic. It is well known that the increase in cancer incidence could also be because of better diagnostic facilities, awareness among the population, and reporting. One cannot ignore the fact that other factors could also be contributing to this increased incidence such as increased tobacco consumption, environmental pollution, and change in food habits and lifestyle. The data also reported that consumption of tobacco was high among people suspected with cancer.

Health Effects of the Chernobyl Accident and Special Health Care Programmes[2] gives a total of 5,000 for the excess cancer deaths “predicted” for the inhabitants of the contaminated areas. This is consistent with the 2005 report, as it represents about a 0.5% increase in cancer mortality. Fukushima and Chernobyl are the only level 7 nuclear events to date – the highest category on the International Nuclear Event Scale.[3] Both have received worldwide media attention. No two nuclear accidents are exactly the same, but Fukushima and Chernobyl both had one key feature – a massive buildup of steam inside the power stations’ cooling systems triggering explosions which then released water vapor into the air, carrying two very different types of radioactive compounds: iodine-131 and cesium-137. Radioactive iodine decays quickly – it has a half-life of 8 days, meaning that, every 8 days, the level of radiation halves. Cesium on the other hand hangs around for a very long time, i.e., it has a much longer half-life (30 years). Since both radioactive elements can be carried many miles by the wind, they both have the potential to cause harm in one of two ways. The first seems fairly obvious – by being near radioactive compounds in the environment, humans and other animals can be exposed from the outside-in, as radiation penetrates their skin. The second is potentially more serious – by breathing contaminated air or dust particles or by consuming contaminated water or food, we can be exposed internally. This allows the radiation to damage internal organs and systems.

The scariest about radioactivity is that it is invisible – you cannot see it, smell it, or hear it (unless you happen to have your very own Geiger counter lying around). Moreover, one of the biggest concerns people have after a nuclear accident is cancer. Ionizing radiation – the type of radiation emitted by iodine and cesium – is a known cause of cancer since it has sufficient energy to damage the genetic material (DNA) inside our cells; it is this damage that can lead to cancer. It is also important to remember that all of us are constantly exposed to low levels of ionizing radiation from natural sources in our environment. Most of this comes from a gas called radon, which leaks out of the earth's crust at a steady rate, but some of it also comes from trace levels of radioactive elements in the food we eat, the water we drink, and from cosmic rays from space. Thankfully most of the time, it does not cause us any significant harm. However, artificially created higher levels of radiation – for example, from X-rays or nuclear power plants – can be harmful, so they are very tightly regulated. People, who work in nuclear industries or in medical centers, have to follow strict safety procedures and some even have to wear personal exposure monitors.

In 2008, the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR)[4] looked at all the evidence and data on newly diagnosed cancers from areas affected by Chernobyl and concluded that, apart from thyroid cancer in those exposed as children and leukemia in rescue and cleanup workers, there had not been a detectable increase in other types of cancer. UNSCEAR[4] concluded that “the vast majority of the population need not live in fear of serious health consequences due to the radiation from the Chernobyl accident.” The evidence suggests that it is not actually cancer that has been the most serious public health consequence of the accident, but it is the mental health impact and worry due to a lack of accurate information. This should to be made known to the general public.

Thanks to what we have learnt till now following the Chernobyl and Fukushima incidents, it is evident that the doses of radiation to a vast majority of population were not high enough to see any increase in incidence of cancer and other health effects. Incidents like this make us learn a lot and that is what we need to do. It is vital to sit up and pay attention to the health of the people similar to what the Japanese government did by launching the Fukushima Health Survey, so as to assess the behavior after the accident, and health checks. This would help researchers to estimate how much ionizing radiation a person is exposed to, and over time, it will allow them to see what, if any, effects this has on people's health.

It is very important that such matters are properly researched, and it is the role of medical researchers, media, and the government to inform the general public the truth rather than sensationalize the issue.


1Cancer Cases up Near Kaigha Plant: Study. Indian Express; 21st June, 2018.
2Gronlund L. How many Cancers did Chernobyl Really Cause? – Updated version. 17 April, 2011. Available from: [Last accessed on 2018 Jun 23].
3Jana Witt 30 Years Since Cherobyl and 5 Years Since Fukushima – What have we Learnt? Cancer Research Group; April, 2016. Available from: [Last accessed on 2018 Jun 24].
4United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation. Sources and Effects of Ionising Radiation. Vol. 2. United Nations, New York: United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation; 2011. Available from: [Last accessed on 2018 Jun 24].