A Snapshot of Thyroid Cancer

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Incidence and Mortality

Thyroid cancer is the ninth most common cancer in the United States.  In 2014, it is estimated that nearly 63,000 Americans will be diagnosed with thyroid cancer, and nearly 1,900 will die of the disease. The overall incidence of thyroid cancer in the United States has increased in people of all racial/ethnic groups and in both males and females over the past several decades.

The incidence of thyroid cancer is increasing more rapidly than that of any other cancer in the United States. Some, although not all, of this increase can be explained by improved detection methods. Thyroid cancer incidence rates vary by both sex and race, with incidence being nearly three times higher in women than in men and nearly twice as high in whites as in African Americans.  After whites, Asians/Pacific islanders have the second highest incidence.  Overall mortality rates remain low despite rising an average of 0.8% annually from 2002-2011.

Most people who develop thyroid cancer are between age 25 and 65 years. Risk factors for thyroid cancer include being female, exposure to radiation to the head and neck as a child, exposure to radioactive fallout, a personal history of goiter, a family history of thyroid disease or thyroid cancer, certain genetic conditions, and Asian ancestry. There are no routine screening tests for thyroid cancer. Standard treatments for thyroid cancer include surgery, radiation therapy (including radioactive iodine therapy), chemotherapy, thyroid hormone therapy and targeted therapy.

Line graphs showing U.S. Thyroid Cancer Incidence and mortality per 100,000, by race and gender from 1991-2011. In 2011 white females have the highest incidence, followed by African American females, white males, and African American males. In 2011, white males, white females, and African American females have the same mortality, 1 case per 200,000; and the mortality rate for African American males is slightly lower.

Source: Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program and the National Center for Health Statistics. Additional statistics and charts are available at the SEER Web site.

Examples of NCI Activities Relevant to Thyroid Cancer

Selected Advances in Thyroid Cancer Research

Pie chart of NCI Thyroid Cancer Research Portfolio.  Percentage of total dollars by scientific area.  Fiscal year 2013.  Biology, 34%.  Etiology/causes of cancer, 22%.  Prevention, 1%.  Early detection, diagnosis, and prognosis, 12%.  Treatment, 21%.  Cancer control, survivorship, and outcomes research, 5%.  Scientific model systems, 5%.

Source: NCI Funded Research Portfolio. Only projects with assigned common scientific outline area codes are included. A description of relevant research projects can be found on the NCI Funded Research Portfolio Web site.


Trends in NCI Funding for Thyroid Cancer Research

NCI’s investment1 in thyroid cancer research was $19.6 million in fiscal year (FY) 2013. In addition to the funding described in the graph, NCI supported $3.4 million in thyroid cancer research in FYs 2009 and 2010 using funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Bar graph of NCI Thyroid Cancer Research Investment in 2009-2013: Fiscal year (FY) 2009, $14.7 million Thyroid Cancer Funding of $4.97 billion Total NCI Budget.  FY 2010, $15.6 million Thyroid Cancer Funding of $5.10 billion Total NCI Budget.  FY 2011, $16.2 million Thyroid Cancer Funding of $5.06 billion Total NCI Budget.  FY 2012, $16.5 million Thyroid Cancer Funding of $5.07 billion Total NCI Budget.  FY 2013 $19.6 million Thyroid Cancer Funding of $4.79 billion Total NCI Budget.

Source: NCI Office of Budget and Finance.

Additional Resources for Thyroid Cancer

  • 1 The estimated NCI investment is based on funding associated with a broad range of peer-reviewed scientific activities. For additional information on research planning and budgeting at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), see About NIH.
  • Posted: November 5, 2014