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Thyroid cancer cases double in 20 years

Thyroid cancer cases double in 20 years

Cancer Research UK has today put out the press release pasted in its entirety below.

There are some links from that press release so, if you want to see them, click on the link to it on their web site.

Thyroid cancer cases double in 20 years

Friday 14 December 2012

National Cancer Intelligence Network Press Release

The number of people diagnosed with thyroid cancer in England has doubled since the early 1990s, according to a new report published by the National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN) today (Friday).

Between 1990 and 1994 around 900 people (1.7 per 100,000 people) were diagnosed with thyroid cancer every year in England. By 2006-10 this figure increased to 1,950 (3.4 per 100,000 people). But, thanks to effective treatments, survival rate have remained high, at around 90 per cent.

Researchers from the Oxford Cancer Intelligence Unit found that most of this increase has been seen in a particular type of thyroid cancer called papillary cancer. This form of the disease has the best prognosis.

The rise has been linked to increased diagnosis of the disease through better techniques such as ultrasound and fine needle biopsies that can pick up much smaller cancers and possibly a ‘real’ rise in the number of people developing thyroid cancer.

Mr David Chadwick, consultant endocrine surgeon at Chesterfield Royal Hospital and Chair of the NCIN Thyroid Working Group, said: “The exact reason behind this steep rise in thyroid cancer cases remains unclear. We now have more sensitive diagnostic techniques so it could be that more cancers are being picked up when patients are being tested for other conditions. And, this could mean that we’re detecting and treating some cancers that would otherwise not have shown up during a person’s life.

“We may also be seeing a ‘real’ increase in the incidence of thyroid cancer, some of which may be due to improved long-term survival of other cancers previously treated with radiotherapy to the neck or chest. Sadly, older forms of radiotherapy had a side-effect that increased the risk of other cancers later in life.”

The report also showed that thyroid cancer is three times more common in women than in men1. For men and women one year survival rates had increased, by nine per cent for men to 88.3 per cent and by 15 per cent for women to 94.3 per cent.

Unlike most cancers, thyroid cancer is most often picked up in people aged between 20 and 59, particularly for the papillary form of the disease, with those aged 30 and 54 having the highest rates.

Treatment for thyroid cancer most commonly includes surgery to remove the thyroid and is often followed up with radioactive iodine. This acts as a ‘targeted treatment’ as the iodine is only taken up by thyroid cancer cells, ultimately killing them.

While this treatment approach has meant that most people with thyroid cancer are successfully treated, there are some forms of the disease that have a very poor prognosis.

Currently, it is difficult for doctors to predict the behaviour of thyroid cancer in an individual patient, which means that most patients will require thyroid surgery.

Chris Carrigan, head of the National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN), said: “This increase in the number of people being diagnosed with thyroid cancer reflects a trend that we’re seeing in other countries. While thyroid cancer is generally a very treatable disease, there is a lot we don’t understand about it. We need to better understand the different forms of the disease so that doctors can predict which patients need more aggressive treatment and which don’t.”


For media enquiries please contact the press office on 020 3469 8300 or, out-of-hours, the duty press officer on 07050 264 059.


7 Replies


It would be good to know why, but they don't and can't know the answer to that I suppose.



wouldn't this, at least in part, explain the doubling of prescriptions for levothyroxine? Perhaps this should be added as a rapid response to the "Bad Medicine" article by someone with the time to compose something that makes sense. The way my brain is working today, I'd probably compose a response indistinguishable from some of the work the 6 year olds in my class produced today! (Not thyroid-related brain fog - it's "exhaustion-from-working-in-an-infant-school-in-the-run-up-to-Christmas" brain fog)

Just a thought



I've heard they think Chernobyl and Fukushima might have something do do with it. My oncologist says the new pathologist that works with him is finding these micro carcinomas now. After finding I had follicular cancer in my right side of the thyroid they removed the left and found a micro carcinoma of papillary cancer in the left side, which was the size of the tip of a pen my oncologist told me. He told me it would probably never have caused me any problems, but its out now, just need to wait for my follow up scan to make sure I.don't need any more iodine, then I will come off lythronine and back on thyroxine. X


Chernobyl seems feasible, but I doubt Fukushima has had any impact here - certainly not long enough ago to have had the cancer impact, been identified, treated, and statistics collected.

There has been discussion over the possibility that improved detection is causing increased numbers, but without detailed research that is difficult to confirm (or deny!).

Hope it goes OK for you! :-)


Having small nodules and not being followed up, could be part of the problem.



Having had a thyroidectomy in 2005 for a thyroid cancer one the most re-assuring aspects of the situation from my perspective (so far as the possibility of a recurrence is concerned) is that it's pretty clear that there's a high incidence of false negative diagnoses of the condition.

It's not a straightforward diagnosis, in that it seems that the increasingly prevalent thyroid autoimmune disease causes major cell damage. Making a firm diagnosis of the point when the resulting chaos tips over to become a cancer isn't easy.

Place this in a social and legal environment where any pathologist who misses a diagnosis of cancer will be publicly pilloried (and nailed legally) and it makes it almost inevitable that lots of 'grey' cases will be diagnosed as cancer.

There's evidence to support this. There's a paper about which documented the results of a retrospective review of stored frozen sections from i think it was about 50 thyroids which had been removed as cancerous - by two panels of doctors totalling maybe ten (?) doctors. One Japanese (where there is a lot of experience of thyroid disease), and one American.

My recollection is hazy, but the outcome was basically that they could only definitively agree on a very small proportion of the total (maybe 20%) as definitely cancerous. The remainder was split between maybes and the perhaps 30% which were deemed non cancerous. (there was a lot of disagreement on both of the latter) i.e. i've always figured i had a perhaps 40% chance that i never had a cancer. (for sure i did have advanced auto immune disease which has been undiagnosed for years and years, but that's a separate story)

This sort of scenario, and the common but highly malign public fear of cancer and need to presume that medicine is largely infallible seems likely to be at the root of recent reports of massive over diagnosis of breast cancer and no doubt other diseases too. The reluctance of the medical profession to do anything that might buster the bubble of (misplaced) confidence, and the readiness of the law to act as though this was the case (enriching themselves as well) has clearly got to be a big factor in all of this too.

We'd in the end all be a lot better off if we as patients could (a) better face up to the reality of medicine and illness, and (b) reach a point where the various professions might act in a less overtly self interested way...


PS Perhaps the basic in this scenario is that if early stage metabolic and related autoimmune, cardio vascular, neurological and other diseases, consequent deficiencies and other conditions and the lifestyle, dietary and environmental were effectively treated and/or resolved we wouldn't see anything like so many of us struggling for years with hypothyroidism and related conditions - only eventually to go down with a cancer or something else equally serious....



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