Environmental Public Health Tracking: Thyroid Cancer Data
Cancer is a term used for diseases where abnormal cells divide without control and are able to invade other tissues. Cancer is not just one disease, but many diseases. There are more than 100 different types of cancer.
Thyroid cancer is one type of cancer. Review the FAQs below for more information about thyroid cancer.
The thyroid is a gland at the base of the throat responsible for making hormones to control heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and weight.
In 2014, it is estimated there will be nearly 63,000 new cases of thyroid cancer.¹
1. National Cancer Institute. Thyroid cancer. Available at http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/thyroid.
Thyroid cancer is much more likely to occur in women and people between the ages of 20 and 55. A few risk factors that increase the likelihood to develop thyroid cancer have been established. These include:
- Gender and Age. For unknown 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. Medullary thyroid cancer, other thyroid cancers, and papillary and follicular thyroid cancers are related to hereditary conditions.
- Radiation. Exposure to medical radiation treatments and radiation fallout are risk factors for thyroid cancer. Thyroid cancer is more common in areas where people have been exposed to radioactivity. For example, children who lived near Chernobyl, the nuclear power plant that had an explosion and fire in 1986, are significantly more likely to have thyroid cancer.
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.
Most people with thyroid cancer have no known risk factors. Because of the availability of genetic blood tests, most of the familial cases of certain types of thyroid cancer 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.