Laughable: Doctors Have no Clue why Thyroid Cancer is on the Rise
Thyroid cancer, which affects about 11 people per 100,000 each year, seems to be on the rise. It’s a trend that baffles medical researchers.
by Shari Rudavsky
January 16, 2012
National Cancer Institute statistics suggest that in recent years the number of cases of this often curable cancer has increased by about 6.5%. Over a decade, that has added up to make thyroid cancer the fastest-increasing cancer, says Tod Huntley, an otolaryngologist and head and neck surgeon with the Center for Ear, Nose, Throat and Allergy in Indianapolis.
“Ten years ago, if I saw four new thyroid cancer patients a year, it would have been a lot,” says G. Irene Minor, a radiation oncologist with Indiana University Health Central Indiana Cancer Center. “Now sometimes I see that many in a month, and I have seen three in a week.”
Thyroid cancer is more common in women younger than 45, Minor said. Doctors don’t know why that’s the case, but thyroid problems in general — such as hyper- or hypo-thyroidism — are more common in women.
The thyroid helps regulate heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature and weight. Thyroid cancer is three times more common in women than men.
Why is it more prevalent?
Experts remain divided on the cause of the increase.
Some attribute it to better screening. Many smaller tumors are picked up on ultrasounds or scans done for other reasons, says Michael Moore, a head and neck surgeon with Indiana University Simon Cancer Center.
Autopsies conducted on people who died for non-thyroid-related reasons reveal that as many as 80% of people older than 60 have a thyroid lump or malignancy that went undiagnosed, Moore says.