The Surprising Causes of Thyroid Cancer

In In The News by Barbara Jacoby

By: Tampa Bay Radiation Oncology


Thyroid cancer is the most prevalent endocrine cancer that affects the thyroid gland. In most cases, thyroid cancer is extremely treatable, and it accounts for only 1 percent of all cancers diagnosed.

The main challenge with thyroid cancer is that its cause is unknown at the moment. It’s worth taking a look at possible causes, but first we need to take a look at some essential details about thyroid cancer itself.

What Is Thyroid Cancer?

Thyroid cancer is a rare form of cancer that affects the thyroid gland, which is located below the thyroid cartilage on the front of the neck.

The thyroid gland is an important part of the body as it produces hormones that regulate metabolism. Unfortunately, the gland can sometimes develop growths and tumors. Most of these are benign, but some are malignant and can spread to other parts of the body.

The good thing about most of these malignant growths is the fact that even at more advanced stages, they are still treatable. What’s more, they can be seen or felt by touching the area of your neck around the thyroid gland. If something feels out of place in your neck and doesn’t go away after a couple of days, you should consult your primary care doctor promptly.

There are four types of thyroid cancer: papillary, medullary, follicular, and anaplastic. Papillary cancer is the most common form; out of every ten thyroid cancers, eight are papillary. They progress slowly and are rarely fatal, and the cause is still unknown.

What Are the Possible Causes of Thyroid Cancer?

Most scientists agree with that the leading possible causes of thyroid cancer are likely to be a set of inherited conditions. The specific make up of or changes in a person’s DNA can cause thyroid cells to turn cancerous. Many cancers are inherited, and there’s a significant possibility that thyroid cancer is among them. As with many cancers, however, scientists are still uncertain on the exact cause.

As is usually the case with DNA, the changes that occur in it are often unexplained. They can:

  • Be a result of a trait people inherit from their parents
  • Be damaged by an outside source
  • Be a random event inside a cell not caused by anything specific

When you consider that, it becomes clear why it’s often hard to find the exact cause of many cancers, and this is true with thyroid cancer.

What’s more, there are plenty of risk factors for thyroid cancer, many of which are risk factors, like smoking, for example, for other forms of cancer,

The most common risk factors connected with thyroid cancer are:

  • Family history of goiter
  • Specific hereditary syndromes, like mutations in the RET gene, or conditions like Gardner syndrome, familial adenomatous polyposis, and a few others.
  • Exposure to high levels of radiation, especially ones directly affecting the neck

Treatment Options

As we have already stated, the good thing about thyroid cancer is that it is treatable. In most cases, surgery is used for thyroid cancer that’s still located on the thyroid gland.

Other options include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and radioactive iodine treatment.