Breast cancer rates higher near nuclear plant

Daily Mail, 13:36pm 13th June 2006

Cancer levels in women living close to a former nuclear power station are more than 15 times higher than the national average, a TV documentary will claim today.

The documentary reveals the shocking results of a survey carried out in the vicinity of Trawsfynydd nuclear power station in north Wales.

Researchers focused on almost 1,000 people of all ages living in three communities close to the closed-down power plant.

The questionnaire asked about cancer within the targeted households during the 1996 to 2005 period.

The survey results are broadcast in the Y Byd ar Bedwar programme on S4C, the Welsh medium fourth channel in Wales, at 8.25pm. Outside Wales the only way to see the programme is via Sky Channel 135, which is transmitting it at the same time.

The overall picture depicted by the results is of double the risk for all types of cancer relative to rates in England and Wales.

Among women younger than 50 it was found that rates of all cancer are more than 15 times the national average.

Breast cancer levels in women aged 50 to 61 are five times the average level for women of that age, according to the results.

Chris Busby, an environmental scientist who worked with the programme makers, said: "We never believed the results would show that cancer rates would be so alarmingly high.

"We have the names and addresses of all the people involved, others can go and speak with them."

He added: "Alerted by a significant proportion of the breast cancer victims reporting that they had sometimes eaten fish from Trawsfynydd Lake, the researchers conducted a further survey to ascertain the background rate of fish eating.

"Trawsfynydd Lake covers almost 5 square km. It is artificial and the lake-bottom sediment down to a depth of 300 mm is known to be highly contaminated with a mean concentration of 4 million Becquerels per tonne of radioactivity.

"This is more than 10 times the concentration which under UK legislation is defined as Low Level Radioactive Waste requiring control.

"The lake is nevertheless advertised as a sports amenity for swimming, boating and fishing. The lake trout are regularly monitored by the authorities.

"The second survey found that eating fish from the lake was more than twice as common among the recent cancer patients (ie in 2003-05) than among the healthy population.

"The only cancer patient under 20 found by the study, an 18-year-old with lymphoma, was said to be an avid angler who had fished the lake regularly.

Former environment minister Michael Meacher described the findings as a "sensational development". In the programme he calls for a full independent inquiry into the findings.

He adds: "The true health effects of radioactive discharges must be resolved before any commitment to new nuclear power stations is made."

A report analysing the questionnaire returns can be found on

Reader comments:

Good news then for Blair and his plans for more nuclear power plants - then again he'll make sure he doesn't live near one. - Fred, Northants

That is so terrible, but does not surprise me. People living near Sellafield have been saying it for years. - Vicky, Staffs

This is not surprising news. Information on the health effects of nuclear industry radiation has been covered up world-wide for years. Now is the time for people to get their minds off promises of short-term financial gain investing in this dangerous industry. It's time to focus on energy conservation and renewable energy sources, and the future of our children. - Christina Macpherson, Melbourne, Australia

Although the figures are high I'm not surprised. Breast cancer mortality was found to be twice the national average in Burnham-on-Sea five miles from Hinkley Point nuclear power station in Somerset. Breast cancer registrations were up thirty per cent in the same town over ten years according to an NHS study in 2003. Local populations pay the penalty for an industry that cannot operate without discharging its lethal isotopes into the environment. The Government should not be allowed to revive this polluting technology. - Jim Duffy, West Quantoxhead, Somerset
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is a consortium of Welsh anti-nuclear groups which has joined Stop Hinkley in campaigns to shut Hinkley 'A' and Oldbury.