A Chernobyl necklace is the horizontal scar left on the base of the neck after a surgery to remove a thyroid cancer caused by fallout from a nuclear accident. The scar has come to be seen as one of the most graphic demonstrations of the impact of the Chernobyl disaster.
The term takes its name from the increased rate of thyroid cancer after the Chernobyl disaster. The scar has also been referred as the Belarus necklace or the Belarusian Necklace, in reference to the large number of thyroid cancer occurrences in the nation caused by the nuclear fallout from neighboring Ukraine. The use of the word necklace indicates its visual resemblance to the horizontal scar around the neck, but also contrasts the negative connotations of the scar with the beauty of an actual necklace.
Iodine is required by higher animals to synthesize thyroid hormones, which contain the element. Because of this function, radioisotopes of iodine are concentrated in the thyroid gland along with nonradioactive iodine. In the case of a nuclear accident, the radioactive iodine-131 (I-131), which has a high fission product yield, is released into the environment. I-131 concentrates in the thyroid, and may cause cancer.
After the Chernobyl disaster, incidents of thyroid cancer among civilians in Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, and Poland have risen sharply. It is estimated that many of those affected have the necklace, however, no statistical information of the affected population exists at this time. See the article on Chernobyl disaster effects for details.
After the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, experts including Robert Alvarez and Natalia Manzurova believe that Japan faces a similar situation: its affected population may wear the Chernobyl necklace in the future.
- Kronik, Aleksandr A.; Akhmerov, Rashad A.; Speckhard, Anne (December 1999). "Trauma and disaster as life disrupters: A model of computer-assisted psychotherapy applied to adolescent victims of the Chernobyl disaster". Professional Psychology: Research and Practice. 30 (6): 586–599. doi:10.1037/0735-7028.30.6.586.
a "Chernobyl necklace," a scar across the neck that bears grim witness to the removal of the affected thyroid
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- Alford, Erika Masuda; Hu, Mimi I.; Ahn, Peter; Lamont, Jeffrey P. (25 March 2011). "Thyroid and Parathyroid Cancers". In Pazdur, Richard; Wagman, Lawrence D.; Camphausen, Kevin A.; Hoskins, William J. Cancer Management: A Multidisciplinary Approach (13 ed.).
- Nocera, Joe (11 July 2011). "Chernobyl’s Lingering Scars". The New York Times.
- Paschyn, Christina Maria (27 April 2011). "Will Women in Japan Wear the "Chernobyl Necklace"?". Ms. Magazine Blog.
- A photo of the Chernobyl necklace (Belarus necklace) taken by Gabriela Bulisova