Thyroid cancer risk

Preventable cases

Thyroid cancer cases are preventable, UK, 2015

 

Caused by obesity

Thyroid cancer cases caused by overweight and obesity, UK, 2015

 

Caused by radiation

Thyroid cancer cases caused by ionising radiation, UK, 2015

 

The estimated lifetime risk of being diagnosed with thyroid cancer is 1 in 332 (less than 1%) for males, and 1 in 170 (less than 1%) for females born after 1960 in the UK.[1]

These figures take account of the possibility that someone can have more than one diagnosis of thyroid cancer in their lifetime (‘Adjusted for Multiple Primaries’ (AMP) method).[2

References

  1. Lifetime risk estimates calculated by the Statistical Information Team at Cancer Research UK. Based on Office for National Statistics (ONS) 2016-based Life expectancies and population projections. Accessed December 2017, and Smittenaar CR, Petersen KA, Stewart K, Moitt N. Cancer Incidence and Mortality Projections in the UK Until 2035. Brit J Cancer 2016. 
  2. Sasieni PD, Shelton J, Ormiston-Smith N, et al. What is the lifetime risk of developing cancer?: The effect of adjusting for multiple primaries. Br J Cancer, 2011. 105(3): p. 460-5. 

About this data

Data is for UK, past and projected cancer incidence and mortality and all-cause mortality rates for those born in 1961, ICD-10 C73.

The calculations used past and projected cancer incidence and mortality and all-cause mortality rates for those born in 1961 to project risk over the lifetime of those born in 1961 (cohort method).[1] Projections are based on observed incidence and mortality rates and therefore implicitly include changes in cancer risk factors, diagnosis and treatment.

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9% of thyroid cancer cases in the UK are preventable.[1]

Thyroid cancer risk is associated with a number of risk factors.[2-4]

Thyroid Cancer Risk Factors

  Increases risk Decreases risk
'Sufficient' or 'convincing' evidence
  • Radioiodines, including Iodine-131
  • X-radiation, gamma-radiation
  • Body fatness[a]
 
'Limited' or 'probable' evidence    

International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classification. World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research (WCRF/AICR) classification does not include thyroid cancer because it is not generally recognised to have a relationship to food, nutrition, and physical activity.

a IARC classifies evidence on body fatness as sufficient.

See also

Want to generate bespoke preventable cancers stats statements? Download our interactive statement generator.

Find out more about the definitions and evidence for this data

Learn how attributable risk is calculated

References

  1. Brown KF, Rumgay H, Dunlop C, et al. The fraction of cancer attributable to known risk factors in England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and the UK overall in 2015. British Journal of Cancer 2018.
  2. International Agency for Research on Cancer. List of Classifications by cancer sites with sufficient or limited evidence in humans, Volumes 1 to 122*. Accessed October 2018.
  3. Lauby-Secretan B, Scoccianti C, Loomis D, et al. Body Fatness and Cancer--Viewpoint of the IARC Working Group. N Engl J Med. 2016 Aug 25;375(8):794-8.
  4. World Cancer Research Fund / American Institute for Cancer Research. Continuous Update Project Findings & Reports. Accessed October 2018.
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International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies the role of this risk factor in cancer development.[1] 8% of thyroid cancer cases in the UK are caused by overweight and obesity.[2]

Thyroid cancer risk is 10% higher in those who are overweight (body mass index [BMI] 25-29.9) and 27% higher in those who are obese (BMI 30+), compared with those of a normal weight (BMI 18.5-24.9), a meta-analysis showed.[3]

UK portrait version shown here. Country versions, cancers caused by other risk factors, and landscape formats are available for free from our cancer risk publications.

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International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies the role of this risk factor in cancer development.[1] 1% of thyroid cancer cases in the UK are caused by ionising radiation.[2]

The highest radiation-associated risks are for those exposed in childhood.[1] Radiation-associated risks may be higher for iodine-deficient people versus those with normal iodine levels.[3]

Raiotherapy

Thyroid cancer risk is 10-15 times higher in people who received a total dose of 10-30 Gray (Gy) of radiotherapy during childhood, compared with the general population a pooled analysis showed.[4] Thyroid cancer risk increases with radiotherapy dose up to around 10Gy, with little if any additional risk beyond this dose; risk also decreases with older age at time of radiotherapy.[4]

Diagnostic radiology

Thyroid cancer risk is not associated with receipt of dental X-rays since 1970, but is 17% higher per 10 dental X-rays received starting before 1970 (when X-ray doses were higher), a cohort study showed.[5]

Thyroid cancer risk is 33-78% higher in people who received computed tomography (CT) scans to the brain, facial bones or spine/neck in childhood, a cohort study showed; CT scans to other body parts were not associated with increased risk.[6]

Atomic bomb radiation

Thyroid cancer risk at age 60 is around 1.3 times higher per 1 Gray (Gy) radiation received, in people exposed to atomic bomb radiation during childhood, compared with the general population, a cohort study showed.[7] Thyroid cancer risk decreases with increasing time since atomic bomb radiation exposure and older age at the exposure; exposure aged 20+ is not associated with thyroid cancer risk.[7]

Thyroid cancer risk among radiological or nuclear accident survivors may be reduced using stable iodine (potassium iodide) to block the thyroid’s uptake of radioactive iodine (iodine thyroid blocking).[8]

References

  1. International Agency for Research on Cancer. List of Classifications by cancer sites with sufficient or limited evidence in humans, Volumes 1 to 122. Accessed October 2018.
  2. Brown KF, Rumgay H, Dunlop C, et al. The fraction of cancer attributable to known risk factors in England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and the UK overall in 2015. British Journal of Cancer 2018. 
  3. Shakhtarin VV, Tsyb AF, Stepanenko VF, et al. Iodine deficiency, radiation dose, and the risk of thyroid cancer among children and adolescents in the Bryansk region of Russia following the Chernobyl power station accident. Int J Epidemiol 2003;32(4):584-91.
  4. Veiga LH, Lubin JH, Anderson H, et al. A pooled analysis of thyroid cancer incidence following radiotherapy for childhood cancer. Radiat Res 2012;178(4):365-76.
  5. Neta G, Rajaraman P, Berrington de Gonzalez A, et al. A prospective study of medical diagnostic radiography and risk of thyroid cancer. Am J Epidemiol 2013;177(8):800-9.
  6. Furukawa K, Preston D, Funamoto S, et al. Long-term trend of thyroid cancer risk among Japanese atomic-bomb survivors: 60 years after exposure. Int J Cancer 2013;132(5):1222-6.
  7. Spallek L, Krille L, Reiners C, et al. Adverse effects of iodine thyroid blocking: a systematic review. Radiat Prot Dosimetry 2012;150(3):267-77.
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Thyroid cancer risk is 6.6 times higher in people with a first-degree relative (parent, sibling, child) with the same disease, compared with the general population, a cohort study showed.[1] Familial thyroid cancer risk is higher in people with multiple first-degree relatives affected, relative(s) diagnosed at a younger age, or an affected twin, a cohort study showed.[2]

Family history

Thyroid cancer risk is 6.6 times higher in people with a first-degree relative (parent, sibling, child) with the same disease, compared with the general population, a cohort study showed.[1] Familial thyroid cancer risk is higher in people with multiple first-degree relatives affected, relative(s) diagnosed at a younger age, or an affected twin, a cohort study showed.[2]

Genetic factors

Genetic predisposition syndromes account for around 20-25% of medullary thyroid cancers, and around 5–15% of nonmedullary thyroid cancers.[3]

Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP)

Thyroid cancer develops in up to 12% of people with FAP.[4-6]

Cowden syndrome

At least 10% of people with Cowden syndrome develop thyroid cancer in their lifetime.[3,7]

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Autoimmune thyroiditis

Autoimmune thyroiditis (Hashimoto’s thyroiditis) is a common cause of hypothyroidism Open a glossary item. Around a quarter of patients with papillary thyroid cancer have autoimmune thyroiditis, a meta-analysis showed.[1]

Thyroid nodules

Thyroid cancer risk is higher in people with thyroid nodules, a large case-control study showed.[2] However only around 5% of thyroid nodules identified incidentally by ultrasound are malignant.[3,4]

Thyroid cancer risk among people with thyroid nodules is higher in those with a family history of thyroid cancer, previous radiation exposure, or larger and taller nodules, meta-analyses have shown.[4,5]

Goitre

Thyroid cancer risk is higher in people with goitre (swelling of the thyroid gland); risk may be slightly lower in multinodular versus single nodule goitre.[3,6]

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