The International Agency for Research on Cancer reports that roughly 586,000 new cases of thyroid cancer wer diagnosed across the globe in 2020. That made thyroid cancer the ninth most commonly diagnosed cancer in the world, with more new diagnoses than melanoma of the skin, cancer of the ovaries, and pancreatic cancer. Thankfully, IARC data indicates thyroid cancer deaths across the globe were relatively low compared to the number of new cases in 2020, a fact that underscores how effective awareness of the disease can be in preventing negative health outcomes.
Measures to reduce cancer risk can never guarantee a person will not ultimately be diagnosed with the disease. However, recognition of risk factors may compel people to avoid certain behaviors that can exacerbate existing risks. Such recognition also may encourage individuals to keep a more watchful eye on their bodies, a vigilance that could compel them to report issues earlier than they otherwise might, thus increasing the chances of successful treatment should they receive a cancer diagnosis. With that in mind, individuals can study these risk factors for thyroid cancer, which the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center notes differ depending on the type of the disease.
Papillary thyroid cancer
The MSKCC reports that most cases of thyroid cancer are papillary thyroid cancer. Papillary thyroid cancer is characterized by a slow-growing tumor that typically begins in one lobe of the thyroid. Risk factors include:
· Radiation exposure: Individuals exposed to radiation as children have a higher chance of developing papillary thyroid cancer.
· Inherited conditions: A family history of multiple colon growths is considered a risk factor for papillary thyroid cancer. Similarly, the MSKCC reports that roughly 5 percent of people with papillary thyroid cancer have family members with the disease, though researchers are still working to identify which gene is responsible for this link.
· Gender: Papillary cancer occurs roughly three times more often in women than in men. However, the tumor grows and spreads more rapidly in men than in women.
Follicular thyroid cancer
This is a slow-growing form of thyroid cancer that can often be cured with the correct treatment. Risk factors include:
· Low-iodine diet: Follicular carcinoma is more likely to develop in places where iodine is not added to the salt used in food.
· Familial conditions: The MSKCC reports that follicular thyroid cancer is part of certain inherited disorders, including Werner’s syndrome.
Medullary thyroid cancer
According to the MSKCC, medullary thyroid cancer appears in older adults. Risk factors include:
· Family history: Roughly one in four individuals diagnosed with medullary thyroid cancer have inherited a mutation in the RET gene.
The Cancer Treatment Centers of America reports that the five-year survival rate for localized thyroid cancer is roughly 99.9 percent. Individuals who recognize their own risk factors for the disease will put themselves in strong position to overcome it should they ever be diagnosed. More information is available at mskcc.org.