February 26, 2003

MEDIA CONTACT: Karen Blum
PHONE: 410-955-1534
E-MAIL: kblum@jhmi.edu

Johns Hopkins Conference to Study Prevention of Thyroid Cancer During Nuclear Events
–Thyroid Disease Expert Available for Interviews

Johns Hopkins endocrinologists and two thyroid organizations are working together to educate public health professionals about the importance of having potassium iodide on hand in case of a nuclear emergency.

In a continuing medical education course, thyroid experts from around the world will discuss the impact of nuclear accidents on the incidence of thyroid cancer, and go over distribution strategies for getting potassium iodide to people who live near nuclear facilities. The course will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 28, at the Hyatt Regency Washington, 400 New Jersey Ave., N.W.

Nuclear fallout arising from accident or terrorism contains radioactive iodine that can cause thyroid cancer, especially in babies and children up to age 18. Potassium iodide tablets prevent the thyroid from absorbing radioactive iodine, protecting the gland. The Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002 calls for distribution of potassium iodide to people living within 20 miles of nuclear facilities as of this June.

"Thyroid cancer historically has been a major public health problem resulting from nuclear incidents including the bombing of Nagasaki, Japan, and the nuclear accident in Chernobyl, Ukraine," says Paul W. Ladenson, M.D., director of endocrinology and metabolism at Johns Hopkins. Based on the bioterrorism bill, individual states must determine their areas of risk and the distribution of the drugs, Ladenson says.

"(Potassium iodide) is something that does need to be in people's homes in case of an incident," he says. "The worst thing someone could do during an event would be to go outside and get it."

Potassium iodide will only protect against thyroid cancer and not other illnesses, Ladenson says. People should not take the pills unless there is an event, he adds, as the substance could otherwise cause a thyroid imbalance.

Co-sponsors of the conference are the American Thyroid Association and the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists.

To see a copy of the program, check the following Web site: http://www.hopkinscme.org/cme/events/PubHlthThyroid.html.

To interview Ladenson, please contact Karen Blum at 410-955-1534 or kblum@jhmi.edu