35 Years Later, Studies Show a Silver Lining From Chernobyl

Cancers are caused by mutations in human DNA. A few lines of genetic code get deleted or mixed up and that change allows cells to proliferate and grow in abnormal ways. Sometimes those DNA changes are genetic—people inherit them from their parents—but sometimes they’re caused by environmental factors. Understanding a tumor’s DNA can help create targeted gene therapies to combat it.

For years, epidemiological studies have shown that thyroid cancer is particularly common among people exposed to radioactive iodine, especially for people who were exposed when they were children. At high enough doses, radioactive iodine kills thyroid cells and can actually be used as a treatment for thyroid cancer and other thyroid conditions. But the…

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