Saturday, July 9, 2011

Potassium Iodide Pills

Potassium iodide (also called KI) is a salt of stable (not radioactive) iodine. Stable iodine is an important chemical needed by the body to make thyroid hormones.

Potassium iodide is medicinally supplied in 130 mg tablets for emergency purposes in the events below:
Chernobyl nuclear reactor disaster in April 1986
Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear plant damaged in the massive Japanese earthquake in March 2011

In the wake of the nuclear plant meltdown in Japan, Americans are buying up potassium iodide pills (also called iodine pills) to fight off radiation poisoning. The effectiveness of KI as a blocker of thyroid radioiodine uptake is well established. However, it’s only for specific types of exposure. Potassium iodide works only to prevent the thyroid from uptaking radioactive iodine. Potassium iodide has no impact on the uptake by the body of other radioactive materials and provides no protection against external irradiation of any kind nor prevents radiation damage to other parts of the body.

When administered in the recommended dose, KI is effective in reducing the risk of thyroid cancer in individuals or populations at risk for inhalation or ingestion of radioiodines. Specifically, potassium iodide blocks only the thyroid from absorbing radioactive iodine. The thyroid gland cannot tell the difference between stable and radioactive iodine and will absorb both. KI works by saturating the thyroid glands with stable iodine, the thyroid gland becomes “full” and cannot absorb any more iodine. The thyroid gland cannot absorb radioactive iodine if it is saturated with non-radioactive iodine.

IOSAT KI tablets 130mg, ThyroSafe KI pills 65 mg and ThyroShield® KI Oral Solution

Up to date, three companies (Anbex, Inc., Fleming Co, and Recip of Sweden) have met the strict FDA requirements for manufacturing and testing of KI, and they offer products (IOSAT, ThyroShield, and ThyroSafe, respectively) which are available for purchase.

Though the FDA currently requires to state an actual expiration date (5 years from date of manufacture), if kept dry in its packaging, it can last for years. In a recent test, IOSAT™ KI produced 16 years ago were assayed and found to be as effective as the day they were manufactured.

KI tablets are not used as nutritional supplements, since the nutritional requirement for iodine is only 150 micrograms or 0.15 mg of iodide per day.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Methods of Prevention

The thyroid gland in the neck is one of the most sensitive organs in the body to radiation. The thyroid uses iodine normally to make thyroid hormone. The radiation from a nuclear event releases radioactive iodine into the air. Exposure to high levels of radiation — as occurs during a nuclear plant meltdown — can lead to thyroid cancer. Radiation seeps into the body through skin and by breathing it into the lungs. It then travels to the thyroid unless potassium iodide is present to block it.

So how does potassium iodide help?

Taking potassium iodide pills temporarily stops the thyroid. If taken prior to radiation exposure, the iodine pills counter the effect of the radioactive iodine on the thyroid. This helps prevent the development of thyroid cancer down the road. For optimal protection against inhaled radioiodines, KI should be administered before the passage of the radioactive iodine plume, though KI may still have a substantial protective effect even if taken 3 or 4 hours after exposure. Take one dose as soon as possible and then every 24 hours at the same time each day.

In 1982, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved potassium iodide to protect thyroid glands from radioactive iodine involving accidents or fission emergencies. Usually, only one dose of potassium iodide is needed since a single dose protects the thyroid gland for 24 hours. U.S. FDA-approved dosing of potassium iodide for this purpose is as follows (per 24 hours):

However, some sources recommend alternative dosing regimens. The above dosage is also recommended by WHO. Side effects are unlikely when KI is used at the recommended dose and for a short time. However, some of the possible side effects are skin rashes, swelling of the salivary glands, “Iodism” (metallic taste, burning mouth and throat, sore teeth and gums, symptoms of a head cold, and sometimes upset stomach and diarrhea) and an allergic reaction towards iodine.

Pregnant women should take it for their own protection and for that of the fetus, as iodine readily crosses the placenta. However, because of the risk of blocking fetal thyroid function with excess stable iodine, repeat dosing with KI of pregnant women should be avoided. Lactating females should be take it for their own protection to reduce the radioiodine content of the breast milk, but not as a means to deliver KI to infants, who should get their KI directly.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Thyroid Cancer

Symptoms of thyroid cancer

The symptoms may include:

Ф Difficult to speak in a normal voice: Your voice box, which is the larynx, may be pressed by the thyroid nodules. And this may cause your voice to change.

Ф Difficult to swallow food or to breathe: For swallowing, your trachea is above your esophagus, and thyroid cancer may then cause you to be difficult to swallow your food. Besides, the thyroid cancer may pressured your trachea, that may cause you to breathe.

Ф Pain in the neck: Lumps can be formed near your throat, which is your neck, and this may cause of neck pain.

A lump in the neck of a patient

Ф Swollen lymph nodes: Thyroid cancer may cause swelling of your lymph nodes. It is because of the infection of your lymph nodes when you are having a cold or sore throat. If the infection is gone, the swell will gone. So, if the lymph nodes in your neck happens to enlarge again, it may be the symptoms of you for getting a thyroid cancer.

Swollen lymph nodes in the neck

All the above are some of the symptoms of thyroid cancer. For those who experience such symptoms should see a doctor. Doctor will then need to diagnose a person’s tissue by using different types of tests.

Diagnosis of thyroid cancer

Thyroid cancer can be diagnosed by using different types of procedures and tests. These tests could include physical test, imaging test, blood test, biopsies, and so on.

Physical test would be done by your doctor. He or she will look for any enlarged lymph nodes in your neck or any enlargement and lumps of your thyroid. Doctor will check whether there is a palpation forms around your neck.

Imaging tests were also being used to diagnose thyroid cancer. Different types of scans could be used to diagnose this cancer. For example, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computer tomography scan (CT scan), x-ray, positron emission tomography (PET scan), and radioiodine scan.

Ф Computer tomography scan (CT) is like an x-ray scan. Unlike a regular x-ray scan, it takes several of pictures as it rotates when you are lying on the table. It creates images of soft tissues of the body. Besides, this scan may require the patient to drink a contrast solution to produce better quality images. It is used to determine the location and size of the cancer tissue in your body. As for the disadvantages, CT scan requires a longer time as compare to a regular x-ray scan to scan for cancerous tissues. Besides, the contrast dye used by this scan contains iodine, that may interfere with radioiodine scans.

Ф Magnetic resonance imaging scan (MRI) uses radio waves to scan thyroid cancer. It provides a clear image of thyroid gland tissues. It is like CT scan that scans for tissues in the body. Computer was used in the process. In order to view a detailed image of cancer tissue, gadoliniums (a contrast dye) is injected into the vein before the scanning process. As to compare with CT scan, MRI scans takes a longer time and a narrow tube was used and may upset people with claustrophobia.

Ф Positron emission tomography (PET scan) uses a modified sugar named flurorodeoxyglucose(FDG). This sugar is injected into the blood of a person. The cancer cells in the body will absorb this sugar if it is growing rapidly. This scan is beneficial to tumors that do not take up radioiodine. However, the image showed in this scan may not be as clearly as CT or MRI scan.

Ф Radioiodine scan may need a solution to be drink by the patient. This solution contains radioactive isotope iodine-131, for thyroid gland is concentrated with iodine-131 that is used to make thyroid hormone. In this process, radioiodine will emits gamma rays. A camera was used to turn gamma rays into an image. The camera is placed in the neck to detect the amount of radioactivity has been emitted by the thyroid gland. However, this scan is useful to differentiate forms of thyroid cancer.

Blood test is used to test for thyroid cancerous tissue. Different blood tests are being used to test cancer tissues, such as TSH test, thyroglobulin test, calcitonin test and Carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) test.

Ф Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) test is the most common used blood test in diagnosing thyroid cancer. It is used to measure the TSH hormone produced in the pituitary gland. High level of TSH may happen in patients with thyroid cancer. Imaging test can be used in this test to evaluate the thyroid nodule.

Ф Thyroglobulin is a protein produced by the thyroid gland. This protein produced in the blood may not be able to diagnose thyroid cancer, for it may cause elevated thyroglobulin levels. But it is useful after the treatment. It is used to check for recurrence after the thyroid has been removed. If the thyroglobulin level in the body rises again, it shows that the cancer may recurred.

Ф Calcitonin test is used to test patients with suspected or a family history of medullary thyroid cancer. Calcitonin is produced in the C-cells of thyroid. If the calcitonin level increases, it shows the recurrence of MTC.

Ф Carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) test is a blood test for CEA. It is produced in medullary thyroid cancer cells. It is also useful in test for cancer tissues.

Biopsy is used to diagnose thyroid cancer using a fine needle. A needle was placed into
the nodule to take out cells. The cells taken are then viewed under a microscope to check for cancerous tissues. Besides, a numbing medicine, which is anesthesia was injected into the skin before the biopsy. This test is being done if the nodules are big enough for the doctor to feel. An ultrasound machine is used if the nodules are too small. It is used to help the doctor to find the right place inserting the needle.

Diagnosis of thyroid cancer

Risk factors that may cause thyroid cancer:

Ф Family history of goiter: A mother who has thyroid cancer may pass on to her child. A gene called RET is the one who cause thyroid cancer. This gene can be tested by using the blood test.

Ф Exposure to high levels of radiation or iodine: People who exposed to high radiation may develop a higher risk of thyroid cancer. The radiation source would be the x-ray. For those who have been using the high-dose of x-ray, may affects the neck. So, it is better that we should use a lower doses of radiation.

Ф Overconsumption of raw goitrogenic foods or soy food: These foods are such as brussel sprouts, cauliflowers, soy products and so on.

Ф Age: Thyroid cancer may happens on those people who starts to aging, which is above 40 years old.

Ф Smokers: As for those who smokes, it is probably for them to have a higher risk of getting thyroid cancer.

Ф Inherited genetic syndrome: Genetic syndrome such as medullary thyroid cancer may increase the risk for a person of getting thyroid cancer.

Ф Inefficient of iodine in the diet: Thyroid cancer can be decreased if he or she has taken sufficient of iodine in the diet, for thyroid hormone is produced by the help of iodine.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Radioactivity and Thyroid Cancer

Iodine-131 is a radioactive form of the element, iodine, released in abundance in the cloud of radioactive steam released by a failing nuclear power. Thyroid cancer develops when thyroid cells absorb excessive radioactive iodine , either through the air or through contaminated food. Babies and toddlers are at the highest risk as their thyroid glands are most radiation-sensitive whereas those over age of 40 are at less risk. By referring to the diagram above, thyroid sits below the voice box and it controls how fast every cells in the human body changes food into energy. Thyroid hormone released from thyroid gland regulates many functions of the body which includes function of digestive tract, brain, heart, nerves, muscles, bones, and skin.

Iodine is necessary for the formation of thyroid hormone and the main sources of iodine are from fishes and shellfish, dairy and eggs, and fruits and vegetables grown in iodine-rich soil. The human body absorbs iodine and stores it in the thyroid gland. Unfortunately, our thyroid glands are also radiation-sensitive and will store harmful iodine-131 that is released into the atmosphere.

Thyroid gland stores iodine-131 as readily as natural, non-radioactive iodine. As iodine-131 builds up in the thyroid gland, it emits clouds of radiation which damages DNA and subsequently mutation. As this proceeds, normal cellular growth and division mechanism are altered, unchecked growth of thyroid tissue can be referred as thyroid cancer. Iodine-131 enters the human body via few mechanisms:

Iodine-131 are absorbed into the body when human breath in radioactive steam released by a nuclear power plant, from fallout of radioactive particles into atmosphere and from consumption of radioactive iodine contaminated water and crops.

Safety of Japanese Seafood to Thyroid and Health:
Debates have been ongoing about the safety of Japanese seafood, the concerns are due to dumping of radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean by Japan's Tokyo Electric Power Co. people are feared of the radioactive iodine-131 that dissolves in water, and experiments have shown that the iodine tends to concentrate in algae which worsen the situation when iodine-131 gets concentrated as it works its way up the food chain.

Several countries have stated that they will strengthen checks of Japanese food for radioactivity, which was decided only hours after the World Health Organization announced that the detection of radiation of some foods in Japan was a more serious problem than expected.

Are you worried? Below are some evidence of the health conscious society:

Malaysia's largest sushi restaurant chain claimed that they had stopped importing raw seafoods from Japan over fears of radiation contamination. In Hong Kong, some luxury hotels including the Shangri-La hotel and Four Seasons Hotel have stopped imports of seafoods from Japan. New Delhi supplier and some restaurants had also stopped imports of Japanese foods.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Radiation Exposure and Cancer

Definition of Radiation:
Radiation is a moving from of energy whereby the energy emitted by one body travels in a straight line through a medium or through space.
Radiation travels in the form of waves
Sources such as the sun, microwave ovens, radio antennas, nuclear reactor, power lines etc.

The range of electromagnetic radiation and the sources of radiation

Types of Radiation:

Radiation and Cancer:
The types of cancers are associated with specific part of the body that is exposed; such scenario can be applied in radiation therapy whereby people who gets a neck radiation therapy would not be expected to have risk of cancers in other parts of body which are not exposed to the radiation.
Sensitivity of different human body parts towards radiation

Those under high risk of radiation exposure are radioactive plant workers, children, infants and fetus in the womb because they are more sensitive to radiation. Another factor is genetic factor, whereby a person may have gene changes (inherited) which makes their body cells more susceptible to radiation damage.

Female adolescents frequently exposed to radiation have a higher risk for breast cancer in the future due to the actively dividing mammary gland cells in adolescents compared to other stages of life. Even though higher doses of radiation may cause cancer, low radiation may also poses some risk of cancer and hereditary effect, the only difference is that the risk is higher for higher radiation exposures.

There are several evidence to support the relationship between radioactivity and cancer:
a) Studies of atomic bomb survivors in Japan
b) People exposed during the Chernobyl nuclear accident
c) People treated with high doses of radiation for cancer and other conditions, and people exposed to high levels of radiation at work, such as uranium miners.

Videos on Chernobyl radioactive incident and Fukushima Japan incident (Click!)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Radiation in General

It is possible that life on Earth exists thanks to radiation. One of the theories on the origins of life on our planet says that ultraviolet radiation, along with lightning and volcanoes provided the zap of energy needed for non-organic molecules like methane and ammonia, to combine into more complex organic molecules like nucleotides and amino acids (Fortey, 1999). However, where radiation once provided energy to simple molecules, it now disrupted the more complicated bonds within more complex organisms.

The fact is, radiation is present everywhere in our environment. It comes from the soil, the stones, the sun, and from many of the essential technological items we use in our daily lives. The World Nuclear Association reports that the highest level of known background radiation exposure is at the city of Ramsar in northern Iran. The area with the largest populations affected by high natural background radiation are the states of Kerala and Madras in India. Other areas with unusually high background radiation doses can be found in China, Brazil and Australia. However, there has been no evidence that the people living in these areas have a higher incidence of cancer or genetic mutations.

Most people will be familiar with man-made radiation sources like nuclear power plants and medical imaging equipments. Mobile phones, microwave ovens, televisions and laptops are also among the many sources of man-made radiation. Mobile phones, cordless phones, television sets, and radios all emit rediofrequency waves. Laptops that are WiFi-enabled, also emit these waves that enable us to surf the Internet, while microwave ovens make use of microwaves to heat up and cook our food. In this modern, technology-dependent era, we are literally surrounded by all these electromagnetic waves.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified radio frequency electromagnetic waves as "possibly carcinogenic to humans". However, generally speaking, radio frequency electromagnetic waves are classified under non-ionizing radiation, along with visible light, infrared and microwaves. This means that the energy emitted by these low-frequency waves is not strong enough to cause electrons to break their bonds within atoms or molecules. These waves are only able to provide more energy to the atoms or molecules they encounter, and cause them to vibrate or move around within their bonds. Therefore, non-ionizing radiation is mostly considered not harmful to living beings, except in certain cases of excessive exposure.

The other more dangerous type of radiation is ionizing radiation. This high-frequency radiation gives out enough energy to break the bonds of electron in atoms or molecules to create charged particles and free radicals. There are three main kinds of ionizing radiation: alpha particles, beta particles, and gamma rays. With high enough dosages, ionizing radiation can cause the breaking up and mutation of our DNA, and disruption of our cellular function. However, the dosage required to cause these conditions is far more than what any average human being is likely to be exposed to, except in highly unusual circumstances, like a nuclear meltdown. In cases like nuclear bombings and large nuclear power plant explosions, the amount of radiation released is usually sufficient to cause instant radiation poisoning.

Reference: Fortey, R. (1999). "Dust to Life". Life: A Natural History of the First Four Billion Years of Life on Earth. New York: Vintage Books, pg 29.