Exposure to radiation increases risk of aggressive thyroid cancer

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A recent report has highlighted the fact that people who have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer and have been exposed to radiation tend to have a more aggressive form of the disease.

Thyroid cancer is well known for its link to radiation exposure. People most at risk include: anyone whose head and neck has been exposed to radiation eg often for the treatment of acne; radiographers; dental assistants; patients who have been exposed to repeated imaging procedures; anyone who has been exposed in an environmental situation eg: Chernobyl as well as anyone who has been treated using radioactive iodine.

The study carried out by Raewyn M Seaberg MD, PhD and colleagues at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, Canada studied 125 patients over a 10.5 year period.

They study found that the average age of exposure was 19.4 years and that cancers were diagnosed nearly 28.7 years later.

When the study was complete they compared these patients to 574 similar patients who had been treated for thyroid cancer, but who had not been exposed to radiation beforehand.

  • 83% of the people who had been exposed to radiation had to have their thyroid removed whereas only 38% of people who had not been exposed to radiation had their thyroid gland removed
  • 23% vs 2% had to have additional surgery
  • 16% vs 5% had stage IV disease
  • 9% vs 2% had distant metastases
  • 8% vs 3% have thyroid cancer at follow-up
  • 4% vs 1.5% have died of the disease


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