Scientists discover 'cancer cluster' near contaminated beach in Scotland

Ruth Doherty
Scientists discover 'cancer cluster' near contaminated beach in Scotland
Scientists discover 'cancer cluster' near contaminated beach in Scotland

Dalgety Bay Beach: Getty

Scientists have discovered high levels of blood and liver cancer in people living near a beach in Scotland contaminated with radiation.

Researchers advising the Scottish Government found there were 10 liver cancer cases around Dalgety Bay in Fife between 2000 and 2009, when four would normally have been expected.

According to the Daily Record, the report for the Department of Health advisory committee on radiation says there was a "pronounced tendency" for the cancer cases to be "close to the headland" of the area, which is tainted with radium, believed to have come from aircraft cockpit dials dumped at the beach after World War II.

There was also a significant excess in lymphomas (cancers of white blood cells), the report said, with 27 cases around Dalgety Bay, where 16 would have been expected.

Alex Elliott, a Glasgow University physics professor who chairs Comare and an expert group on Dalgety Bay, told the Herald Sun there was a possibility the liver cancers were linked to the contamination, but stressed there could be other causes, saying: "While exposure to radium cannot be excluded as a cause, there are other risk factors more closely associated with this disease."

Former prime minister Gordon Brown, the MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, is now demanding a probe.

The UK Government's Health Protection Agency, and the Ministry of Defence, continue to insist health risks from radiation at Dalgety Bay are low.

And experts have stressed that there is no actual confirmed connection between the radium and the cancer cases, which could have other causes.

But a public notice warns people of radioactive contamination at Dalgety Bay beach (pictured), and parts of the beach are closed.

Radioactive contamination was first discovered at Dalgety Bay, a popular sailing resort, in 1990. More than 2500 radioactive hotspots have been found on the foreshore in the past 22 years, more than 1000 since September 2011.

They have ranged in size from tiny specks to half-brick-sized lumps and include some of the most lethal found on public beaches, according to the Herald Sun.

Many residents and council staff are calling for further detailed investigation into the health risks posed by the radioactive beach.

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