Ionizing radiation has a significant impact on human health, leading to a wide range of illnesses, including thyroid cancer. People who lived downwind of nuclear test sites, known as downwinders, have been particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of such exposure. Here, we explore the link between thyroid cancer and radiation exposure, specifically focusing on downwinders’ cancer and the help available for those exposed to radiation.
Between 1945 and 1962, the United States began above-ground nuclear testing. These tests were carried out predominantly in areas in the Pacific and South Pacific and at the Nevada test site, just north of Las Vegas. Nuclear tests had devastating consequences, exposing the people involved in the tests, along with many others living in nearby areas, to dangerous levels of radiation and other toxic substances.
How Are Thyroid Cancer and Radiation Exposure Connected?
When someone is exposed to high energy radiation of certain wavelengths, known as ionizing radiation, it has the ability to damage their DNA and cause cancer. Although potentially any part of the body can be affected, thyroid cancer is among the most prevalent cases of cancer from radiation exposure.
The thyroid gland, located at the base of the neck, is responsible for producing essential hormones that control different functions in the body, such as regulating metabolism. According to several studies, even low doses of ionizing radiation increases the risk of thyroid cancer, particularly for those exposed during childhood. Moreover, a strong link has been established between radioactive iodine (Iodine-131) exposure and increased thyroid cancer risk.
Are There Warning Signs of Thyroid Cancer?
Common symptoms of thyroid cancer include:
- A lump or growth in the neck (known as a thyroid nodule)
- Difficulty breathing or swallowing
- Hoarseness (loss of voice)
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
It is important to remember that thyroid cancer can share similar symptoms with other conditions, so you should always see your healthcare provider if you are experiencing symptoms or are concerned about your health.
Who Are the Downwinders?
Downwinders are individuals who resided in areas located downwind of nuclear test sites, notably regions in Nevada, Arizona, and Utah during the mid-20th century. These individuals were unknowingly exposed to harmful ionizing radiation arising from nuclear fallout, which was carried by wind patterns to their communities.
Many downwinders have since developed various forms of cancer, including thyroid cancer, as a direct result of this exposure. In addition to increased incidence of thyroid cancer, downwinders may also experience other health complications, such as enlarged thyroid glands, hypothyroidism, and hyperthyroidism.
The term is a poignant reminder of a time when the life-altering consequences of nuclear testing on human health were not fully recognized or communicated to the public.
Understanding the Downwinders’ Cancer List
As nuclear tests and other radiation-related activities became more frequent during the 20th century, the impact of radiation exposure on nearby populations became increasingly apparent. A downwinders’ cancer list was established to identify specific cancer types directly linked to radiation exposure, which includes:
- Thyroid cancer
- Lung cancer
- Breast cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Stomach cancer
- Colon cancer
- Pancreas cancer
- Bladder cancer
- Ovarian cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Brain cancer
Understanding the connection between thyroid cancer and radiation exposure provides important insights for downwinders and the long-term health effects they may experience.
Compensation Options for Downwinders Exposed to Radiation
Federal compensation programs are available for those who have been exposed to radiation and have developed conditions linked to this exposure. The U.S. government has recognized the need for compensation for downwinders through the establishment of programs such as the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA).
RECA provides compensation to individuals who developed certain cancers and other serious diseases as a result of their exposure to radiation released during above-ground nuclear weapons tests or due to their occupational exposure to radon while undertaking uranium mining. Downwinders who lived in certain counties in Nevada, Utah, and Arizona between 1951 and 1962 are eligible to apply for RECA compensation. The compensation amount for downwinders is typically $50,000.
There’s also the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA), which compensates Department of Energy workers who were exposed to radiation and developed one or more of the specified cancers on the downwinder’s list.
Veterans exposed to radiation while on active duty might be eligible for the Veterans’ Benefits program. The Department of Veterans Affairs provides disability compensation for diseases associated with exposure to ionizing radiation during military service.
These compensation programs acknowledge the dangerous health impacts of radiation exposure. However, the process of applying for these programs can be complex and requires careful documentation of exposure and medical condition. It’s advisable to consult with a legal expert or a patient advocate, such as the National Cancer Benefits Center, to ensure the process is managed effectively.
National Cancer Benefits Center for Downwinders
If you or a loved one has developed cancer as a result of government-created radiation, you may be eligible for compensation. The dedicated team at the Cancer Benefits Center can help you collect fair compensation and guide you throughout the claims process.
We know how complicated and overwhelming the claims process can be, but with over 25 years of experience, our team understands the different criteria and claim requirements and is able to provide you with the resources and assistance to help you get the compensation you are owed.
To learn more about the downwinders compensation program or to get help making a claim, contact the friendly staff at the Cancer Benefits Center for Downwinders®. You can call us anytime at 1 (855) 631-7197. We are available 24 hours a day, every day.