Definitions for iodine-131
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heavy radioactive isotope of iodine with a half-life of 8 days; used in a sodium salt to diagnose thyroid disease and to treat goiter
The radioactive isotope of iodine, , having a half-life of 8 days; used as a medical tracer
Iodine-131, also called radioiodine is an important radioisotope of iodine. It has a radioactive decay half-life of about eight days. It is associated with nuclear energy, medical diagnostic and treatment procedures, and natural gas production. It also plays a major role as a radioactive isotope present in nuclear fission products, and was a significant contributor to the health hazards from open-air atomic bomb testing in the 1950s, and from the Chernobyl disaster, as well as being a large fraction of the contamination hazard in the first weeks in the Fukushima nuclear crisis. This is because I-131 is a major uranium, plutonium fission product, comprising nearly 3% of the total products of fission. See fission product yield for a comparison with other radioactive fission products. I-131 is also a major fission product of uranium-233, produced from thorium. Due to its mode of beta decay, iodine-131 is notable for causing mutation and death in cells that it penetrates, and other cells up to several millimeters away. For this reason, high doses of the isotope are sometimes less dangerous than low doses, since they tend to kill thyroid tissues that would otherwise become cancerous as a result of the radiation. For example, children treated with moderate dose of I-131 for thyroid adenomas had a detectable increase in thyroid cancer, but children treated with a much higher dose did not. Likewise, most studies of very-high-dose I-131 for treatment of Graves disease have failed to find any increase in thyroid cancer, even though there is linear increase in thyroid cancer risk with I-131 absorption at moderate doses. Thus, iodine-131 is increasingly less employed in small doses in medical use, but increasingly is used only in large and maximal treatment doses, as a way of killing targeted tissues. This is known as "therapeutic use."
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