Reassurances on cancer risk from North nuclear plant

Newcastle University study plays down risk from Sellafield

Owen Humphreys/PA Wire Sellafield Nuclear plant in Seascale, Cumbria
Sellafield Nuclear plant in Seascale, Cumbria

Children currently living near the Sellafield nuclear plants are not at an increased risk of developing cancer, researchers from the North East have found.

People living close to nuclear power stations should take reassurance from the study, experts from Newcastle University said.

The researchers found that children, teenagers and young adults who live near the two sites are not at an increased risk compared to the general population.

Their study, published in the British Journal of Cancer, examined cancer rates between 1963 and 2006 among those who were under 25 and living near Sellafield or the Dounreay plant in Scotland when diagnosed.

Earlier studies have shown raised risks of leukaemia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma in children, teenagers and young adults resident either at birth or diagnosis in Seascale, the village on the coast of the Irish Sea in Cumbria near to Sellafield. Some increases in cancer risk in these age groups had been noted among those living around Dounreay.

But researchers Newcastle University, working with colleagues at the Childhood Cancer Research Group at Oxford University, found no difference was found in cancer incidence from 1991 to 2006 between those living near these nuclear power plants and the general population.

“Apart from previously reported raised risks, no new significantly increased risks for cancer overall or any diagnostic subgroup were found among children or teenagers and young adults living around either nuclear installation,” the authors wrote.

“Individuals born close to the installations from 1950 to 2006 were not shown to be at any increased risk of cancer during the period 1971 to date.”

Lead author Kathryn Bunch said: “For many years, there have been concerns over the potential raised cancer risk among people - particularly children - who live near nuclear installations. This study found that children, teenagers and young adults living close to Sellafield and Dounreay are no longer at an increased risk of developing cancer.

“Furthermore, there is no evidence of any increased risk of cancer later in life for those who were born near these power plants.”

Commenting on the research, Dr Julie Sharp, Cancer Research UK’s head of health information, added: “There has been a lot of concern that nuclear power stations could increase the risk of cancer, particularly leukaemia. This study is reassuring for anyone who happens to be living near a power plant, as it shows no increased risk among children, teenagers or young adults in recent years.”

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