- Thyroid Conditions Slideshow
- Take the Quiz on Thyroid Disorders
- Thyroid Medical Anatomy
- Patient Comments: Thyroid Cancer - Symptoms
- Patient Comments: Thyroid Cancer - Treatments
- Patient Comments: Thyroid Cancer - Share Your Surgery Experience
- Find a local Oncologist in your town
- Thyroid cancer facts*
- What is the thyroid?
- What is the thyroid cancer?
- What causes thyroid cancer?
- What are the risk factors for thyroid cancer?
- What are the symptoms and signs of thyroid cancer?
- What are thyroid nodules?
- What are the different types of thyroid cancer?
- How is thyroid cancer diagnosed?
- How is thyroid cancer staging determined?
- What kinds of specialists treat thyroid cancer?
- What is the treatment for thyroid cancer?
- Thyroid hormone
- Radioactive iodine
- What kind of support is available for those with thyroid cancer?
- What is the prognosis for patients with thyroid cancer?
- Can thyroid cancer be prevented?
Quick GuideThyroid Anatomy, Symptoms, and Disorders
What causes thyroid cancer?
The exact cause of thyroid cancer is not known, though there are factors that may be associated with an increased risk of developing the cancer. Even if the risk factors are present, there is not a way of knowing whether cancer might develop; patients without risk factors still may develop thyroid cancer.
What are the risk factors for thyroid cancer?
Children who have had radiation exposure to the neck are at higher risk for thyroid cancer. Studies have looked at children who were radiated 50 and 60 years ago when the risks of radiation where less well understood, and their rate of thyroid cancer is increased. Children and women survivors of nuclear reactor accidents (Chernobyl in 1986 has been studied) have an increased risk of thyroid and other types of cancer.
X-rays and CT scans of the neck use low doses of radiation but medical testing has not been found to cause thyroid cancer. Nevertheless, in general, it is important to limit the amount of exposures to the least amount of radiation that will provide a clear enough image to help make a diagnosis.
Diets low in iodine may increase the risk of thyroid cancer, but in developed countries, there is usually enough iodine used as food additives that this is not a problem. Lower levels of iodine in the diet may enhance the risk of radiation induced thyroid cancer.
Women are three times more likely to develop thyroid cancer than men and at a slightly younger age (40 to 50 years old for women versus 60 to 70 for men).
There may be a genetic predisposition to thyroid cancer, especially in certain rare types of thyroid cancer.