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Thyroid cancer incidence statistics

Incidence statistics for thyroid cancer by country in the UK, age and trends over time are presented here. There are also data by geography and prevalence. The ICD code for thyroid cancer is ICD-10 C73.

The latest incidence statistics available for thyroid cancer in the UK are 2010. Find out why these are the latest statistics available.

By country in the UK

Thyroid cancer is the 20th most common cancer in the UK (2010), accounting for almost 1% of all new cases. In females, it is the 18th most common cancer (1% of the female total), whilst in males it falls outside of the top 20 (less than 1% of the male total).1-4

In 2010, there were 2,654 new cases of thyroid cancer in the UK (Table 1.1): 748 (28%) in men and 1,906 (72%) in women, giving a male:female ratio of around 10:25.1-4 The crude incidence rate shows that there are 2 new thyroid cancer cases for every 100,000 males in the UK, and 6 for every 100,000 females.

The European age-standardised incidence rates (AS rate) do not differ significantly between the constituent countries of the UK (Table 1.1).1-4

Table 1.1: Thyroid Cancer (C73), Number of New Cases, Crude and European Age-Standardised (AS) Incidence Rates per 100,000 Population, UK, 2010

England Wales Scotland Northern Ireland UK
Male Cases 630 30 66 22 748
Crude Rate 2.4 2.0 2.6 2.5 2.4
AS Rate 2.2 1.9 2.3 2.4 2.2
AS Rate - 95% LCL 2.0 1.2 1.8 1.4 2.1
AS Rate - 95% UCL 2.4 2.6 2.9 3.4 2.4
Female Cases 1,578 95 169 64 1,906
Crude Rate 6.0 6.2 6.3 7.0 6.0
AS Rate 5.5 5.4 5.7 6.6 5.6
AS Rate - 95% LCL 5.3 4.4 4.8 5.0 5.3
AS Rate - 95% UCL 5.8 6.5 6.5 8.3 5.8
Persons Cases 2,208 125 235 86 2,654
Crude Rate 4.2 4.2 4.5 4.8 4.3
AS Rate 3.9 3.8 4.1 4.5 3.9
AS Rate - 95% LCL 3.7 3.1 3.5 3.6 3.8
AS Rate - 95% UCL 4.0 4.4 4.6 5.5 4.1

Download this table XLS (33KB) PPT (168KB) PDF (226KB)

95% LCL and 95% UCL are the 95% lower and upper confidence limits around the AS Rate

The latest analysis of thyroid cancer incidence rates throughout England reports modest variation between cancer networks, with the highest rates being in parts of the West Midlands (Arden), Thames Valley and Yorkshire, and the lowest in parts of the South (Sussex, Surrey, Hampshire and Dorset) and parts of the North-East (North Trent).5

section reviewed 18/09/13
section updated 18/09/13

By age

Thyroid cancer incidence in males is strongly related to age with the highest incidence rates being in older men. However, incidence in females is unusual as it does not follow the same pattern of increasing incidence with age seen in males (and most other cancers). Age-specific incidence rates in females rise sharply from around age 10-14, reaching a peak in women aged between 30 and 54 (at 8 cases per 100,000 women), and then drop slightly before levelling off at a slightly lower rate (7 per 100,000 females) in older women (those aged 60 to 85+).

The higher rates in younger women, compared with men, suggest that reproductive and other hormonal factors affect the risk of thyroid cancer. However, the evidence for the association is currently inconsistent.

In the UK between 2008 and 2010, an average of 32% and 23% of cases were diagnosed in men and women aged 65 years and over, respectively. Although males and females have very different age distributions the proportion of cases being diagnosed in people aged between 30 and 64 years is similar at 60% for males and 65% for females (Figure 1.1).1-4 Incidence rates are higher for females than for males for age groups between 10 and 84 years, and this gap is widest between the ages of 20 and 24, when the male:female incidence ratio of age-specific rates (to account for the different proportions of males to females in each age group) is around 10:47 (Figure 1.1).1-4

Figure 1.1: Thyroid Cancer (C73), Average Number of New Cases per Year and Age-Specific Incidence Rates, UK, 2008-2010

cases_crude_thyroid.swf

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section reviewed 18/09/13
section updated 18/09/13

Trends over time

Thyroid cancer incidence rates have increased overall in Great Britain since the mid-1970s (Figure 1.2).1-3 For males, European AS incidence rates increased by 135% between 1975-1977 and 2008-2010. The rise is bigger for females, with rates increasing by 159% between 1975-1977 and 2008-2010. The reason for this increase is unclear, although a study in the United States - which has also seen an increasing trend of thyroid cancer incidence rates - concluded that increasing incidence trends reflect better detection of subclinical disease rather than a true increase in incidence.7 A study in South East England also suggested this may be the case with widespread use of ultrasound detecting incidental nodules.8 However, other studies have suggested that improved and increased diagnostic activity can not completely explain the increase in rates.9,10 Changes in the patterns of risk factors such as use of medical diagnostic radiation, obesity rates and the iodine fortification of salt might have contributed to the increase in rates, but other unknown risk factors could also have had an impact.11-13

Figure 1.2: Thyroid Cancer (C73), European Age-Standardised Incidence Rates, Great Britain, 1975-2010

inc_asr_gb_thyroid.swf

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Thyroid cancer incidence trends for the UK are shown in Figure 1.3.1-4 Over the last decade (between 1999-2001 and 2008-2010), the European AS incidence rates have increased by 53% and 67% in males and females, respectively.

Figure 1.3: Thyroid Cancer (C73), European Age-Standardised Incidence Rates, UK, 1993-2010

inc_asr_uk_thyroid.swf

Download this chart XLS (52KB) PPT (133KB) PDF (38KB)

For males, thyroid cancer incidence rates have increased overall for most of the broad age groups in Great Britain since the mid-1970s (Figure 1.4).1-3 The largest overall increase has been for males aged between 25 and 39, with European AS incidence rates increasing almost five-fold (382% increase) between 1975-1977 and 2008-2010. There were also large increases in rates between 1975-1977 and 2008-2010 for males aged 15-24, 40-54 and 55-69 with rates increasing by 208%, 179% and 114%, respectively. For men aged 70-79, incidence rates overall increased by 88% between 1986-1988 and 2008-2010. Rates have fluctuated for men aged 80+ but have overall doubled (increased by 102%) between 1992-1994 and 2008-2010.

Figure 1.4: Thyroid Cancer (C73), European Age-Standardised Incidence Rates, Males by Age, Great Britain, 1975-2010

inc_asr_age_m_thyroid.swf

Download this chart XLS (70KB) PPT (145KB) PDF (53KB)

For females, thyroid cancer incidence rates have also increased overall for most of the broad age groups in Great Britain between 1975-1977 and 2008-2010 (Figure 1.5).1-3 Following a similar pattern to males, the largest overall increase has also been in females aged between 25 and 39, with incidence rates more than quadrupling (350% increase) in this age group between 1975-1977 and 2008-2010. There were also large increases in rates between 1975-1977 and 2008-2010 for females aged 15-24, 40-54 and 55-69, with rates increasing by 169%, 259% and 100%, respectively. For women aged 70-79 and 80+, incidence rates overall decreased between the mid-1970s and 1980s, before increasing by 43% overall for women aged 70-79 between 1984-1986 and 2008-2010 and by 27% overall for women aged 80+ between 1989-1991 and 2008-2010.

The reasons for the larger increases in younger adult men and women compared with older adults are not clear.

Figure 1.5: Thyroid Cancer (C73), European Age-Standardised Incidence Rates, Females by Age, Great Britain, 1975-2010

inc_asr_age_f_thyroid.swf

Download this chart XLS (67KB) PPT (143KB) PDF (53KB)

section reviewed 18/09/13
section updated 18/09/13

 

In Europe and worldwide

In 2008 there were an estimated 33,600 new cases of thyroid cancer diagnosed in the European Union (EU-27). The highest incidence rate was estimated to be in France, where the female rate was five times higher than the rate of the lowest ranking country, Greece (18.6 versus 3.3 per 100,000 females). Age-standardised rates for the UK are lower than the EU average (Figure 1.6).14

Figure 1.6: Thyroid Cancer (C73), European Age-Standardised Incidence Rates, EU-27 Countries, 2008 Estimates

EU27_inc_thyroid.swf

Download this chart XLS (60KB) PPT (138KB) PDF (90KB)

The highest rates for thyroid cancer in the world occur in Northern America, where the female age-standardised rate is 15.1 per 100,000 females, compared with 1.2 per 100,000 females in Middle Africa. Incidence is low in all parts of Africa. Worldwide more cases occur in females aged 15-44 than in any other age group (Figure 1.7).15

Figure 1.7: Thyroid Cancer (C73), World Age-Standardised Incidence Rates, World Regions, 2008 Estimates

world_inc_thyroid.swf

Download this chart XLS (63KB) PPT (141KB) PDF (70KB)

section reviewed 22/07/11
section updated 22/07/11

Prevalence

Prevalence refers to the number of people who have previously received a diagnosis of cancer and who are still alive at a given time point. Some patients will have been cured of their disease and others will not.

Worldwide, it is estimated that there were more than 862,000 men and women still alive in 2008, up to five years after being diagnosed with thyroid cancer.15

section reviewed 17/05/13
section updated 17/05/13

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References for thyroid cancer incidence

  1. Data were provided by the Office for National Statistics on request, June 2012. Similar data can be found here: http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/vsob1/cancer-statistics-registrations--england--series-mb1-/index.html.
  2. Data were provided by ISD Scotland on request, April 2012. Similar data can be found here: http://www.isdscotland.org/Health-Topics/Cancer/Publications/index.asp.
  3. Data were provided by the Welsh Cancer Intelligence and Surveillance Unit on request, April 2012. Similar data can be found here: http://www.wales.nhs.uk/sites3/page.cfm?orgid=242&pid=59080.
  4. Data were provided by the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry on request, October 2012. Similar data can be found here: http://www.qub.ac.uk/research-centres/nicr/CancerData/OnlineStatistics/.
  5. Oxford Cancer Intelligence Unit. Profile of Head and Neck Cancers in England: Incidence, Mortality and Survival. 2010.
  6. Peterson E, De P, Nuttal R. BMI, diet and female reproductive factors as risks for thyroid cancer: a systematic review. PLoS ONE 2012;7(1):e29177
  7. Davies L, Welch HG. Increasing incidence of thyroid cancer in the United States, 1973-2002. JAMA 2006; 295(18): 2164-7
  8. Olaleve O, Ekrikpo U, Moorthy R, et al. Increasing incidence of differentiated thyroid cancer in South East England: 1987-2006. Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol 2011;268(6):899-906.
  9. Chen AY, Jemal A, Ward EM. Increasing incidence of differentiated thyroid cancer in the United States, 1988-2005. Cancer 2009;115(16):3801-7
  10. Aschebrook-Kilfoy B, Ward MH, Sabra MM, et al. Thyroid cancer incidence patterns in the United States by histologic type, 1992-2006. Thyroid 2011;21(2):125-34
  11. Zhao ZG, Guo XG, Ba CX, et al. Overweight, Obesity and Thyroid Cancer Risk: A Meta-analysis of Cohort Studies. J Int Med Res 2012;40(6):2041-50.
  12. Blomberg M, Feldt-Rasmussen U, Anderson KK, et al. Thyroid cancer in Denmark 1943-2008, before and after iodine supplementation. Int J Cancer 2012;131(10):2360-6.
  13. Enewold L, Zhu K, Ron E, et al. Rising thyroid cancer incidence in the United States by demographic and tumor characteristics, 1980-2005. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2009;18(3):784-91.
  14. European Age-Standardised rates calculated by the Cancer Research UK Statistical Information Team, 2011, using data from GLOBOCAN 2008 v1.2, IARC, version 1.2.
  15. Ferlay J, Shin HR, Bray F, et al. GLOBOCAN 2008 v1.2, Cancer incidence and mortality worldwide: IARC CancerBase No. 10 [Internet]. Lyon, France: International Agency for Research on Cancer; 2010. Available from http://globocan.iarc.fr.
Updated: 18 September 2013