How common is thyroid cancer?
Thyroid cancer is found in only about 15,000 people each year and causes about 1,210 deaths per year. The most common form (papillary cancer) moves very slowly, and treatment is almost always successful when the cancer is detected early. A less common form (follicular cancer) also moves relatively slowly. Two less frequent forms of thyroid cancer (undifferentiated, or anaplastic, and medullary) are more serious.
Who can get thyroid cancer?
Anyone can get thyroid cancer. However, one group in particular has a higher risk: people who have had radiation to the head or neck. From the 1920s to the 1960s, x-ray treatments were used for an enlarged thymus gland, inflamed tonsils and adenoids, ringworm, acne, and many other conditions. At that time, doctors thought the x-rays were safe. About 1 million Americans received the treatment, and some of these people will get thyroid cancer up to 40 or more years after receiving the treatment. We now know that radiation therapy to the head or neck increases the chance of developing thyroid cancer later in life. (Radioactive iodine treatments and x-rays used for testing do not increase the risk of cancer.) Others at risk include a child or elderly person with a lump (nodule) in the thyroid. If a man has a thyroid nodule, it is more likely to be cancerous than if a woman has one.
Thyroid Cancer Resources
- American Cancer Society: Thyroid Cancer
Questions and answers about thyroid cancer (Risk factors, Diagnosis, Treatment)
- MEDLINEplus Health Information: Thyroid Cancer