A Snapshot of Thyroid Cancer
Incidence and Mortality
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 three decades. In 2013, it is estimated that 60,200 Americans will be diagnosed with thyroid cancer and 1,850 will die of the disease.
The incidence of thyroid cancer is increasing more rapidly than that of any other cancer in both men and women. Some, but 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 at least three times higher in females than in males and nearly twice as high in whites as in African Americans. Mortality rates remain low despite slight increases in recent decades.
Risk factors for thyroid cancer include age between 25 and 65 years, exposure to radiation to the head and neck as a child, exposure to radioactive fallout, history of goiter, family history of thyroid disease or thyroid cancer, certain genetic conditions, and obesity. 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.
Examples of NCI Activities Relevant to Thyroid Cancer
- The Mouse Models of Human Cancers Consortium (MMHCC) has developed several endocrine system murine cancer models, including models of thyroid cancer, which are available to the research community.
- The Radiation Epidemiology Branch of the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics conducts radiation epidemiology and dosimetry studies of the Chernobyl Nuclear Accident.
- NCI's Patterns of Care/Quality of Care (POC/QOC) Studies evaluate the dissemination of state-of-the-art cancer therapies into community practice. Thyroid cancer is among the cancers covered by these studies.
- Results of the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study are being used to examine potential risk factors for thyroid cancer, including body mass index, smoking, alcohol intake, history of diabetes, and level of physical activity.
- The NCI-supported Chernobyl Tissue Bank collects, stores, and distributes to researchers tissues from patients who have developed thyroid cancer following radiation exposure from the Chernobyl nuclear accident.
- The goal of the Phase II Trial of Valproic Acid in Patients with Advanced Thyroid Cancers of Follicular Cell Origin is to determine whether valproic acid, a drug used to treat mood and seizure disorders, will also kill thyroid tumor cells, slow their growth, or increase their uptake of radioactive iodine.
Selected Advances in Thyroid Cancer Research
- Results of a cohort study suggest that physical activity is associated with a reduced risk of papillary thyroid cancer risk among normal and underweight women. Published October 2012. [PubMed Abstract]
- The combination of two anticancer drugs, paclitaxel and pazopanib, had synergistic antitumor activity against anaplastic thyroid cancer cells in preclinical studies. Published January 2013. [PubMed Abstract]
- An analysis of Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program data showed that although enhanced detection likely contributed to increased thyroid cancer incidence in the past 30 years, it cannot fully explain increasing incidence rates. Published January 2013. [PubMed Abstract]
- In a small clinical trial, the experimental drug selumetinib increased radioactive iodine uptake and retention in some patients with advanced thyroid cancer that was refractory to radioactive iodine alone. Published February 2013. [PubMed Abstract]
- See this PubMed list of selected free full-text journal articles on NCI-supported research relevant to thyroid cancer. You can also search PubMed for additional scientific articles or to complete a search tutorial.
Trends in NCI Funding for Thyroid Cancer Research
The National Cancer Institute's (NCI) investment1 in thyroid cancer research increased from $14.6 million in fiscal year (FY) 2008 to $16.5 million in FY 2012. In addition to this funding, NCI supported $3.4 million in thyroid cancer research in FY 2009 and FY 2010 using funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).
Additional Resources for Thyroid Cancer
- What You Need To Know About™ Thyroid Cancer
Describes thyroid cancer types, diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up care for someone recently diagnosed with thyroid cancer.
- NCI Thyroid Cancer Home Page
Information about thyroid cancer treatment, clinical trials, research, and other topics from the National Cancer Institute.
- Accidents at Nuclear Power Plants and Cancer Risk Fact Sheet
A fact sheet about cancer risks associated with accidents at nuclear power plants. Includes information for cancer patients who live in an area that may be affected by a nuclear power plant accident. Also contains links to information about NCI-supported research on ionizing radiation and cancer risk.
- Thyroid Cancer Treatment (PDQ®)
Expert-reviewed information summary about the treatment of thyroid cancer.
- Clinical Trials 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.