Researchers at the Penn State College of Medicine recently published a study claiming that analysis of thyroid tumors showed tissue differences, based on where the patient lived. People who lived near Three Mile Island at the time of the 1979 accident had tumors more likely to have come from radiation exposure than people who developed thyroid cancer while living elsewhere, according to the researchers.Science is advanced by experts who publish new findings, and readers who then evaluate the conclusions and how they fit into the existing body of knowledge. We welcome all contributions to knowledge. But scientific studies should be read with care, so their claims can be understood, and so we can determine how the findings fit with what was previously understood. And these findings don’t fit.Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating StationDespite what a reader might assume from a news headline, this paper does not assert that Three Mile Island is the cause of any cancers. It goes off in a new direction, in ways that may not be obvious to a reader unfamiliar with previous work in the area.The scientific consensus is that examination of a tumor, and its DNA, does not conclusively tell you what caused the tumor to develop. The other is that extensive work, in scientific and engineering disciplines far distant from medical science, has concluded the amount of radioactive material released from the reactor building during the Three Mile Island accident in March, 1979, was very small, and that doses to people in the region were minuscule, adding a tiny increment to the natural background exposure.To be sure, the researchers made only limited claims. They did not say anything, for example, about whether that part of Pennsylvania saw any increase in thyroid cases. (Other studies show that it didn’t.)They wisely pointed to some shortcomings of their

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