DOI: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.29559 ISSN:

Second Primary Cancer Among Patients With Papillary Thyroid Carcinoma Following the Chernobyl Disaster

Anas Taha, Stephanie Taha-Mehlitz, Eldar A. Nadyrov, Dmitry Zinovkin, Ilya Veyalkin, Leonid Levin, Md Zahidul I. Pranjol, Nathaniel Melling, Michael D. Honaker, Philippe C. Cattin, Ralph A. Schmid
  • General Medicine


To our knowledge, there are no complete population-based studies of the risks of developing second malignant tumors after papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC) in patients following the Chernobyl nuclear accident.


To study the risk of second primary cancers in patients with PTC after the Chernobyl disaster.

Design, Setting, and Participants

This was a retrospective cohort study conducted in the Republic of Belarus over a 31-year time frame evaluating patients with primary PTC and second malignant tumors. Personal data from the Belarussian Cancer Registry were used in the investigation, and only second primary cancers were included in the analysis. Patients were observed from January 1, 1990, to December 31, 2021, for the establishment of second primary malignant tumors.

Main Outcomes and Measures

For analysis, synchronous and metachronous tumors were grouped into 1 group (second primary cancer group). If the patient had more than 2 cancers, they were observed until development of a second tumor and, subsequently, the development of a third tumor. The starting point for calculating the number of person-years was the date of thyroid cancer diagnosis. The end point for calculating the number of person-years was the date of diagnosis of the second primary malignant tumor, the date of death, the date of the last visit of the patient, or December 31, 2021 (the end the of study period). The incidence of a second primary malignant tumor with PTC was calculated for the study groups using standardized incidence ratios.


Of the 30 568 patients with a primary PTC included in this study, 2820 (9.2%) developed a second malignant tumor (2204 women and 616 men); the mean (SD) age of all patients at time of the primary cancer was 53.9 (12.6) years and at time of the secondary cancer was 61.5 (11.8) years. Overall, the standardized incidence ratio was statistically significant for all types of cancer (1.25; 95% CI, 1.21-1.30), including solid malignant tumors (1.20; 95% CI, 1.15-1.25) and all leukemias (1.61; 95% CI, 2.17-2.13). Cancers of the digestive system (466 cases [21.1%]), genital organs (376 cases [17.1%]), and breasts (603 cases [27.4%]) were the most prevalent second primary tumors in women following PTC. Second primary tumors of the gastrointestinal tract (146 cases [27.7%]), genitourinary system (139 cases [22.6%]), and urinary tract (139 cases [22.6%]) were the most prevalent in men. Urinary tract cancers (307 cases [10.9%]) and gastrointestinal tumors (612 cases [21.4%]) were the most prevalent second primary tumors overall.

Conclusions and Relevance

This cohort study reports the increased incidence of solid secondary tumors in men and women over a 31-year time frame after the Chernobyl disaster. Moreover, there was a statistically significant increased risk of second tumors of the breast, colon, rectum, mesothelium, eye, adnexa, meninges, and adrenal glands as well as Kaposi sarcoma. These data might have an effect on the follow-up of this cohort of patients to detect secondary malignant tumors at an early stage.

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