Highlands & Islands

Black Isle cancer victim's Chernobyl search

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Media captionCatriona Munro wants to contact fellow students who were in Minsk at the time of the Chernobyl disaster

A Scots woman who was studying in Minsk at the time of the Chernobyl disaster hopes to trace fellow students, after she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Catriona Munro, from the Black Isle, said she wants to discover if other members of her group of British language students have also become ill.

Ms Munro was studying in Minsk, 250 miles away from Chernobyl, in the former Soviet Union.

A series of explosions ripped through the nuclear power plant in April 1986.

She told BBC Scotland: "I was sunbathing at the time it happened on the roof of the student hostel we were living in. It wasn't until about three days later that the news that there has been a massive explosion leaked out.

"It was August 2008, when I was diagnosed with Stage Four breast cancer.

"That's when the word 'Chernobyl' came back into my life. It was mentioned by certain people in the medical establishment that it could possibly have a link to my cancer."

Doctors have told Ms Munro it was impossible to establish a direct link between her cancer and the exposure to radioactive fallout she experienced.

But she wants to find her fellow students, to discover if any others have become ill. The group was drawn from universities across the UK.

A documentary to be broadcast by BBC Scotland tells how the collapse of the Soviet Union meant no definitive research was ever carried out into the impact of the Chernobyl disaster on human health.

Even estimates of the death toll vary wildly, ranging from 50 to a million.

'Next generation'

That has led to calls for a new long term study, similar to comprehensive research into the health effects of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which is still going on.

Professor Keith Baverstock, who led the World Health Organisation's radiation protection programme for more than 10 years, believes new research is vital.

He said: "There's the next generation to think of. There's some evidence that a kind of mutation has been passed down to future generations and we don't know what the health consequences of this are, so we have to study that."

The BBC Scotland documentary Fall Out, will be broadcast on BBC 2 Scotland on Sunday evening at 18:30.

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