Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Women's Health

Font Size

Surge in Thyroid Cancer Cases May Be Due to This

Many might be getting unnecessary treatment for slow-growing disease, some experts say

continued...

The investigators found that since 1975, the incidence of thyroid cancer has almost tripled, from 4.9 to 14.3 cases per 100,000 people. Nearly all of this increase has been of papillary thyroid cancer -- from 3.4 to 12.5 per 100,000 people.

The biggest increase was seen among women -- from 6.5 to 21.4 cases per 100,000 women. That's nearly four times more than it is for men, which went from 3.1 to 6.9 cases per 100,000 men, the researchers noted.

Although the number of thyroid cancers diagnosed has increased dramatically, the death rate from the disease hasn't changed, remaining at about 0.5 deaths per 100,000 people, the researchers added.

Commenting on the study, Dr. Brian Burkey, an otolaryngologist at the Cleveland Clinic, said: "We are seeing a lot more thyroid cancer, but not deaths. Most of these cancers have 95 percent cure rates. But perhaps in certain cancers we are treating it too aggressively."

Burkey said current treatment calls for a biopsy of thyroid nodules, which can lead to removing the thyroid. "There is really only one treatment for papillary thyroid cancer -- surgery," he said.

After the thyroid is removed, patients have to take medication to replace thyroxine and triiodothyronine, the hormones produced by the thyroid.

"The question is, 'Do we need to treat all these thyroid cancers?'" Burkey said. There is mounting evidence that watchful waiting might be a good alternative, but it's too early to start using this as a standard treatment. That will have to wait until there are clinical trials that prove this is a good option, he explained.

Cooper added, "Until we learn to accept small thyroid cancers as less worrisome than we now consider them to be and educate our patients about the non-lethal nature of the disease, the upward trend in thyroid cancer diagnosis and treatment will continue."

1|2

Today on WebMD

woman looking in mirror
Article
Woman resting on fitness ball
Evaluator
 
woman collapsed over laundry
Quiz
Public restroom door sign
Slideshow
 
Couple with troubles
Article
Bone density illustration
VIDEO
 
Young woman being vaccinated
Slideshow
woman holding hand to ear
Slideshow
 
Blood pressure check
Slideshow
mother and daughter talking
Evaluator
 
intimate couple
Article
puppy eating
Slideshow