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  • What is thyroid cancer?
    • Thyroid cancer has a lower fatality rate than most cancers. Since 1973, a 2.4 -fold increase in the incidence of this disease has occurred. Much of this is attributable to improved detection of the disease by thyroid ultrasound and ultrasound-guided fine needle aspiration rather than an increase in occurrence.

  • What are the risk factors for thyroid cancer?
    • Thyroid cancer is much more likely to occur in women and people between the ages of 20 and 55. Although a person with thyroid cancer may have a risk factor, the degree to which that risk factor contributes to the cancer may be difficult to determine. A few risk factors that increase the likelihood to develop thyroid cancer have been established. These include:

    • * Gender and Age: For undetermined reasons, thyroid cancers occur about 3 times more often in women. Thyroid cancers can occur at any age but most cases of them occur between the ages of 20 and 55 years.
    • * Diet Low in Iodine: Some types of thyroid cancers are more common in areas of the world where diets are low in iodine. In the United States, iodine is added to table salt and foods.
    • * Hereditary Conditions: such as, Medullary thyroid cancer (MTC), other thyroid cancers, and Papillary and follicular thyroid cancers.
    • * Radiation Exposure
      • * Atomic bomb explosions: Very high levels of radiation have been caused by atomic bomb explosions (such as those in Japan during World War II). People, especially children, who survive atomic bomb explosions are at increased risk of leukemia.
      • * Radiation therapy: Another source of exposure to high levels of radiation is medical treatment for cancer and other conditions. Radiation therapy can increase the risk of leukemia.
      • * Diagnostic x-rays: Dental x-rays and other diagnostic x-rays (such as CT scans) expose people to much lower levels of radiation. It's not known yet whether this low level of radiation to children or adults is linked to leukemia. Researchers are studying whether having many x-rays may increase the risk of leukemia. They are also studying whether CT scans during childhood are linked with increased risk of developing leukemia.

  • How is thyroid cancer related to the environment?
    • The excessive risk for thyroid cancer associated with exposure to external ionizing radiation has been well-established. No other environmental chemicals or physical agents have been associated with this cancer.

  • How do you prevent thyroid cancer?
    • Most people with thyroid cancer have no known risk factors; therefore it is not possible to prevent the disease in those instances. Because of the availability of genetic blood tests, most of the familial cases of MTC can be either prevented or treated early. Removing the thyroid gland in children who carry the abnormal gene will prevent a cancer that might be fatal.

Last Revised: January 28, 2014


Data Query

Thyroid Cancer Data
Access the thyroid cancer data in the WI EPHT online database. Review the Data Details below to learn about interpreting the data.

The WI EPHT online database has data about other specific cancers:

Data Details

What is the data source?

The website provides data from the Wisconsin Cancer Reporting System, which is maintained by the Office of Health Informatics, Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

How does WI EPHT measure cancer?

The WI EPHT website includes the following measures:

  • counts for each cancer type
  • age adjusted rate for each cancer type

What are some considerations for interpreting the data?

While significant effort is made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the data, there are limitations that are listed below:

  • Reporting may be less complete from rural versus urban areas of the state.
  • Reporting may be less complete for cases where diagnosis and/or treatment occurs in a different state.
  • Reporting completeness is different depending on the type of cancer.

There are many factors that can contribute to a disease and should be considered when interpreting the data. Some of these include:

  • Demographics, e.g., race, gender, age
  • Socioeconomic Status, e.g., income level, education
  • Geographic, e.g., urban vs. rural
  • Changes in the medical field, e.g., diagnosis patterns, reporting requirements
  • Individual behavior, e.g., diet, smoking